IAF's missing AN-32 aircraft remains untraced, search operations continue

The C-130J and ground patrols of the Indian Army are carrying out search operations.

The search operations for the AN-32 transport aircraft of the Indian Air Force (IAF) continued on Tuesday morning, more than 12 hours after it went missing with 15 people on board from Assam's Jorhat. The aircraft, which went missing on Monday afternoon after taking off, still remains unlocated. The C-130J and ground patrols of the Indian Army are carrying out search operations.

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The IAF has been making every effort to locate the aircraft and while there were reports that the wreckage of the aircraft was spotted near Tato in West Siang district of Arunachal Pradesh, the IAF has denied this. The AN-32 aircraft had taken off from Jorhat in Assam but lost contact with ground staff before its scheduled landing in Arunachal Pradesh's Menchuka airfield.

There were 15 people - all IAF personnel - on board when the aircraft took off from Jorhat. The aircraft took off 12:25 PM and its last contact with ground staff was at 1 pm. After the AN-32 did not reach Mechuka Advance Landing Ground, the IAF initiated the overdue action.

According to the IAF, all available resources have been employed to locate the aircraft, including a Sukhoi-30 combat aircraft, a C-130 Special Ops aircraft and several choppers. Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh has also said he is monitoring the situation closely.

There is not the first time that an IAF AN-32 aircraft has gone missing or is feared crash.

In June 2009, an IAF AN-32 plane had crashed over the Rinchi Hill near Heyo village in West Siang district of Arunachal Pradesh killing all the 13 defence personnel on board. The wreckage of the plane, carrying seven IAF personnel and six Army soldiers, was found about 30 km from Mechuka Advance Landing Ground, in the district located about 60 km from the Indo-Chinese Line of Actual Control.,

The plane got airborne from Mechuka Advance Landing Ground at 2 pm on June 9, 2009, and was going to Mohanbari Air Force Station in Assam. But the plane vanished from the radar within a few minutes after getting airborne.

The medium-lift Ukrainian-made Antonov-32 transport aircraft joined the IAF fleet in 1984. The force at present operates five squadrons of about 100 AN-32s, mostly used for carrying Army troops and supplies for them in forward areas along the Line of Control with Pakistan and Line of Actual Control with China.

In September of 2016, another AN-32 with seven persons on board, went missing after it took off from Chennai for Port Blair. The aircraft was not found despite a massive search operation for it.