Indian Air Force locates part of missing AN-32 after 8 days: Delay in finding wreckage highlights Arunachal Pradesh's difficult terrain

To say that it's difficult for the armed forces to operate in the impossible terrain in parts of Arunachal Pradesh, is to say the least.

That it took eight days of intensive and concerted joint search operations by the army, navy, air force, civil administration, state police, ITBP and locals of the Adi, Tagin and Memba tribal communities, not to speak of ISRO’s satellite involvement, to zero onto a spot where the tail of the missing AN-32 was suspected to be located, only underlines the enormity of the difficult terrain of the area and the huge challenges it presents.

 Indian Air Force locates part of missing AN-32 after 8 days: Delay in finding wreckage highlights Arunachal Pradeshs difficult terrain

Representational image. Wikimedia Commons

The spot can be said to be well below the aerial route to Mechuka in Arunachal Pradesh from Assam’s Jorhat, an IAF spokesperson said.

Strong clues were already there. Local media had reported on 7 June that three persons from Tumbin village under Kaying circle in West Siang district had seen thick black smoke emanating from a mountain at the same time the aircraft was reported missing. It was from the direction of Molo village at an aerial distance of about 8 kilometres.

But the real challenge lay in reaching the area after combating the inclement weather, the thick jungles, and scaling the forbidding mountains.

On Tuesday, it was an Mi-17 chopper of the Indian Air Force that located the wreckage at a spot about 16 kilometres north of Lipo which is situated to the northeast of Tato at an approximate elevation of 12,000 ft. The nearest human habitation is Gatte village under Payun circle in Siang district in Arunachal Pradesh, not far from the site indicated by the Tumbin villagers.

The twin-engine Russian-origin aircraft had gone missing on 3 June, about 33 minutes after taking off from Jorhat’s Rowriah. It was headed for the advanced landing ground (ALG) at Mechuka and had 13 passengers, including six officers, five airmen and two non-combatants on-board. Mekhuka is about 30 kilometres away from the India-China border and is often in the news because of border transgressions by Chinese soldiers into the Indian side.

Besides the frequent landings by AN-32 and C-130J, the super-heavy C-17 Globemaster also lands at the Mechuka ALG.

An array of aircraft and other assets had been deployed for the search mission. It included the Indian Navy's Poseidon-8I, a long range reconnaissance aircraft that was flown in from the Naval Air Station at Rajali in Tamil Nadu. The Poseidon-8I is equipped with sophisticated radars and sensors. The other resources included Sukhoi 30 MKI fighter jets, a C-130J aircraft, another AN-32 aircraft, helicopters, and the army’s unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

With half of the year to go, 2019 may well turn out to be one of the worst years for the IAF as far as accidents are concerned. The armed force has already lost 23 personnel in 10 incidents.

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Updated Date: Jun 11, 2019 21:14:45 IST