A transport plane of the Indian Air Force with 29 people on-board went missing on Friday, while flying from Chennai to Port Blair.
The Antonov AN-32 aircraft took off at 8.30 am from Tambaram in Chennai and the last contact made was 16 minutes later, according to defence sources.
The aircraft can reportedly fly for up to four hours without refuelling.
A massive search operation has been launched by the IAF, Navy and the Coast Guard, sources said.
So, what is the AN-32 plane?
According to Bharat Rakshak, the consortium of Indian military websites, the AN-32 forms the backbone of the IAF's medium lift capabilities. It writes, "the AN-32s were hit hard by the chaos in the ex-USSR, as spares became harder to obtain." To compensate, the IAF fitted several AN-32s with AN-12 power plants (after these were retired) and put a number of airframes (an aircraft's mechanical structure that includes fuselage, wings and undercarriage) into storage. It should also be noted that the AN-32s will need replacements by the end of the decade as spares are reportedly hard to come by and the life of the airframes are short.
The Indian Air Force website describes the aircraft as a "twin-engine turboprop, medium tactical transport aircraft of Russian origin with a crew of five and capacity to carry 39 paratroopers or max load of 6.7 tonnes". The website notes that the aircraft has a maximum cruise speed of 530 km/hr.
Bharat Rakshak also adds that AN-32, known as the 'Sutlej' in the IAF (Nato codename: Cline) is the "workhorse of the transport fleet" that travels to far off bases such as Leh, to deliver much-needed supplies to the Army outposts in the area. An estimated 100 aircraft are in service with the IAF. Deliveries to the IAF began in July 1984. Its maximum cruising speed is 286 knots (329 mph; 530 km/h) at 8,000 metres (26,245 feet), and has a capacity of 39 paratroopers on tip-up seats.
According to the official website of Antonov, more than 240 of the AN-32 aircrafts are being operated in countries, which have adverse climate conditions, including India, Sri Lanka, Columbia, Peru, Mexico, Afghanistan and African countries.
The P8-I, which has also been deployed for search and rescue, is armed with harpoon block missiles and is called the "country's intelligent hawk eyes". The aircraft has also achieved a number of operational milestones, which includes participation in the search effort for Malaysian Airlines MH370.
The P8-I has a maximum speed of 907 kmph and an operating range of 1,200 nautical miles.
Bharat Rakshak also adds that the relatively new Dornier DO-228 light transport aircrafts that are still in production in-country, and one of which has been deployed for search and rescue, are the ones to stick around well into the future.
It is to be noted that the Dornier 228 is the most versatile and most advanced high-wing aircraft in its class.
Livemint had earlier reported that the Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) had won a Rs 1,090 crore deal to supply the IAF with 14 new turboprop DO-228 aircrafts, according to the ministry of defence. This move comes following Prime Minister Narendra Modi's decision to modernise India's armed forces by replacing aged equipment with home-made hardware built by local and foreign companies and scale back on arms import.
As of February 2015, the HAL has so far manufactured 125 DO-228 transport planes.
Here is a list of plane crashes in which the AN-32 was involved
Updated Date: Jul 22, 2016 15:47:27 IST