Itanagar/New Delhi: A massive search and rescue operation (SAR) involving a large fleet of planes, choppers and satellite imagery to locate an AN-32 transport plane of the Indian Air Force (IAF), which went missing near the thickly-forested Menchuka in Arunachal Pradesh on Monday, was called off due to low visibility on Wednesday.
The operation will resume on Thursday morning.
According to reports, IAF helicopters, including C-130J, are currently engaged in the search and rescue operation and they will be carrying out the night missions to locate the missing aircraft.
The IAF has intensified efforts to locate the missing plane despite challenges posed by vegetation, inhospitable terrain and poor weather.
Search by the IAF and Army helicopters was adversely affected by weather during the day earlier on Wednesday. However, supported by Army, Navy, Police and State Administration, the search efforts by ground teams and airborne sensors will continue through the night.
Satellite imagery is also being used to trace the missing transport plane of the IAF, officials said.
Sharing details about the operation, senior officials told PTI that ''aircraft equipped with advanced sensors including C-130J, AN-32 and Indian Navy's long-range maritime reconnaissance aircraft P8I have deployed to trace the missing aircraft.''
The Army has also provided its Mi-17 and ALH helicopters to locate the missing plane, the officials said further.
The Russian-origin transport aircraft, with 13 people on board, went missing on Monday afternoon around 33 minutes after taking off from Jorhat in Assam for Menchuka near the border with China.
IAF spokesperson Group Capt Anupam Banerjee had said that the families of all air-warriors onboard the missing aircraft have been informed and are being regularly updated on the progress of the search operation.
Navy sources claimed that P-8I aircraft has been deployed in the SAR operation since it has electro-optical and infra-red sensors which could be helpful in the search operation. All leads from airborne sensors are being closely assessed and followed-up with search by aircraft and the ground teams.
Meanwhile, ISRO's Cartosat and RISAT satellites are taking images of the area around Menchuka to help the rescuers find the plane.
The IAF on Monday said the aircraft took off from Jorhat at 12.27 pm for the Menchuka advance landing ground in Shi-Yomi district in Arunachal Pradesh, and its last contact with the ground control was at 1 PM.
A total of eight crew and five passengers were onboard the aircraft.
The AN-32 is a Russian origin aircraft and the IAF currently operates a sizeable number of it. It is a twin-engine turboprop transport aircraft.
In June of 2009, an AN-32 had crashed over the Rinchi Hill in Arunachal Pradesh while another aircraft had gone missing after it had taken off from Chennai for Port Blair in September of 2016.
An AN-32 aircraft had crashed near a village in West Siang district of Arunachal Pradesh in June 2009 in which 13 defence personnel were killed.
The medium-lift Ukrainian-made Antonov-32 transport aircraft had joined the IAF fleet in 1984. The force at present operates five squadrons of about 100 AN-32s.
(With Agency inputs)