Shimla/New Delhi: After an eight-day
operation which saw 149 aerial sorties, the air force has
located the wreckage of the MiG-29 fighter aircraft which had
crashed on snow-clad mountains in Himachal Pradesh on October
19 but the fate of the pilot is not known.
"On Tuesday, the IAF task force confirmed locating crash
site at 15,000 feet above Chokhang village in Lahaul area and
informed that several components of the aircraft have been
recovered after digging under the snow and rubble. These are
being brought down to base camp for proper identification," a
Western Air Command spokesperson said in Delhi.
An IAF chopper had dropped eight expert mountaineers
including three from army on a ledge where they spent the
night with just the basic survival gear.
The same site was also spotted by unmanned aerial vehicles
(UAVs) earlier in a photo reconnaissance mission but it could
not be conclusively established since the ill-fated plane had
disintegrated into small pieces and the debris was spread
across the slopes on either side of a ridge, he said.
"The crash site could not be confirmed as the area came
under fresh snowfall. Also, soot and burn marks along the
slopes as seen in our recce imagery as well as by villagers
also disappeared under the snow," the spokesperson said.
Since 19 October, about 55 personnel including expert
mountaineers from the IAF, army and some hired mountaineers
have been involved in the search for the pilot, Squadron
Leader D S Tomar, and debris of the missing aircraft.
The task force commander Group Captain P K Sharma
undertook aerial reconnaissance by helicopter to guide the
teams to precise locations. The team was under threat from
wild animals since fresh snow had claw marks of animals -
suspected to be of bears in the area.
Also, the site had accumulated ice with crevices that were
covered under fresh snow, making the progress even slower.
The IAF had deployed frontline fighter aircraft including
Su-30MKI and Jaguars along with transport planes AN-32s, Avros
and helicopters for the search operation and flew a total of
149 sorties till October 25.
Western Air Commander Air Marshal D C Kumaria has said
that "the search would continue till we reach to the bottom of
case and arrive at definite conclusions".
The crashed MiG-29 aircraft had taken off from Adampur
base in Jalandhar for a night-flying exercise in high altitude
when it crashed into the mountain.
Rajiv Shankar, Deputy Commissioner, Lahaul and spiti said that some pieces of the aircraft were recovered from
Earlier, some villagers of Thirot, 40 km from Keylong
town, had spotted some burnt pieces of aircraft in Chokhang
hills and brought three such pieces which, the IAF said,
matched with that of MiG 29.
"The pieces of the wreckage in both the cases were
recovered close to each other and prima facie it appears that
the main parts of the crashed aircraft were also nearby,"
"The trekkers have set up a base camp on the hilltop of
Chokhang for search operations and the troops reach the base
camp before the sunset," Deputy Superintendent of Police
Khajana Ram said, adding that the state police and JK Rifles
were providing logistic support to the trekkers.