IAF says parts of missing AN-32 aircraft located in Arunachal Pradesh's Lipo by Mi-17 chopper engaged in SAR mission

Parts of the Indian Air Force (IAF)'s missing AN-32 aircraft have been found in Lipo, in northern Arunachal Pradesh on Tuesday. The breakthrough has come on the ninth day of the search operation for the IAF aircraft went missing on 3 June.

There were 13 people onboard the flight. The Russian-origin IAF aircraft had lost contact around half an hour after taking off from Jorhat in Assam for Menchuka advanced landing ground near the border with China. IAF had launched a massive search operation hours after the aircraft went missing.

"The wreckage of the missing AN-32 was spotted today 16 kilometres north of Lipo, North East of Tato at an approximate elevation of 12,000 feet by the IAF Mi-17 Helicopter undertaking search in the expanded search zone," the IAF tweeted on Tuesday. In another tweet a few minutes later, the IAF said, "Efforts are now continuing to establish the status of occupants and establish survivors."

ANI quoted the IAF as saying that it will air drop search teams, including Garud commandos, IAF mountaineers and other ground forces on Wednesday morning to search the area for more wreckage.

On Monday, the IAF said that it was "committed" in searching for the aircraft. The defence wing said that a "marginal" improvement in the weather had aided it to intensify the search for the missing aircraft. "Search will continue throughout the night by airborne sensors and ground teams. IAF is committed in finding the missing air-warriors," said a tweet.

 IAF says parts of missing AN-32 aircraft located in Arunachal Pradeshs Lipo by Mi-17 chopper engaged in SAR mission

Representational image. ANI

On Sunday, IAF announced a reward of Rs 5 lakh to anyone providing information about the location of the missing aircraft. Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief of Eastern Air Command Air Marshal RD Mathur made the announcement of the cash reward after massive search operations had failed to yield results.

An official said aerial search operation could not be undertaken on Saturday due to poor weather conditions even as ground troops continued combing the mountainous area for the sixth consecutive day.

On 8 June, Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa reviewed the overall search operation at a high-level meeting in Assam's Jorhat air base. "Air Chief Marshal Dhanoa was given a detailed briefing about the operations and was apprised with the inputs received so far. He interacted with families of the officers and airmen who were on board the aircraft," an IAF spokesperson said.

The assets deployed for the operation included Sukhoi-30 aircraft in addition to a fleet of C-130J and AN-32 planes and Mi-17 and ALH helicopters. The ground forces included troops from the Army, Indo-Tibetan Border Police and state police.

"The area of search is mountainous and heavily forested with thick undergrowth. The weather in the area has been inclement with low clouds and rain during most hours," said the IAF spokesperson. "Combined with the inhospitable terrain, the weather has posed serious challenges to aerial search operations," the IAF spokesperson added.

He said aerial search could not be undertaken due to poor weather conditions on Saturday. "Indian Air Force has increased the deployment of its helicopters and transport aircraft and has expanded the search area significantly since the beginning of the operations," the official said.

He said more and more area is being covered by air-borne sensors and satellites and the imaging is being followed up by close analysis of the data. The IAF has been regularly updating the families of all air warriors on board the aircraft about the rescue operation.

The Indian Navy's P-8I aircraft was deployed earlier this week as it has electro-optical and infra-red sensors which could be helpful in the search operation. IAF officials said ISRO's Cartosat and RISAT satellites are taking images of the area around Menchuka to help the rescuers find the plane.

The AN-32 aircraft took off from Jorhat at 12.27 pm for the Menchuka advance landing ground and its last contact with the ground control was at 1 pm. A total of eight crew and five passengers were on board 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.

With inputs from agencies

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Updated Date: Jun 11, 2019 22:09:02 IST