IAF's AN-32 transport aircraft with 29 on board goes missing; massive search operation launched
An Antonov An-32 transport aircraft of the India Air Force, with 29 personnel on board, including four officers, on Friday went missing over the Bay of Bengal off the Chennai coast, and remained untraceable despite a full-scale search and rescue mission.
New Delhi: An Antonov An-32 transport aircraft of the India Air Force, with 29 personnel on board, including four officers, on Friday went missing over the Bay of Bengal off the Chennai coast, and remained untraceable despite a full-scale search and rescue mission.
IAF, Navy and Coast Guard launched a massive search and rescue operation to find the plane that went missing around 300 km off Chennai, and will continue through the night.
Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said, "The plane is still missing. All efforts are being done to trace the plane and the service personnel travelling on board."
One submarine, eight aircraft and 13 ships have been deployed to track the upgraded plane which made the last radio contact at 0846 hours, 16 minutes after take off from Tambaram air base.
The aircraft, an upgraded AN-32 belonging to 33 Squadron, took off from Tambaram Air Force Station in Chennai at 8.30 a.m., and was expected to land at Port Blair in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands at 11.30 am, officials said, describing it as a "routine sortie".
While IAF has pressed into service a C130 plane along with two AN32, the Navy has deployed two P8i maritime surveillance and anti-submarine warfare aircraft from the strategically important Port Blair, home to India's only tri-service command.
The Navy has also pressed into service two Dornier aircraft and 12 ships with the Eastern Fleet Commander on board for the search and rescue operation.
Those on board included six crew members, 15 personnel from the IAF, army, navy and Coast Guard, and eight civilians who were family members of the personnel.
The Defence Minister is likely to visit Tambaram air base near Chennai on Saturday.
India bought 125 AN-32 aircraft in 1984. The IAF at present has a fleet of over 100 AN-32s.
The Russian-origin aircraft is known for its excellent take-off characteristics in hot and high conditions, and is suitable for use as a medium tactical military transport. The twin-engine aircraft is primarily used for transporting cargo and passengers, including skydivers and paratroopers.