Arakkonam: Raksha Mantri, Manohar Parrikar personally reviewed the ongoing search operations initiated to locate the missing Indian Air Force AN-32 aircraft during his visit to INS Rajali, the Naval Air Station at Arakkonam. The Raksha Mantri was briefed on the search operations undertaken in the last 24 hours and utilization of assets from the Navy, Air Force and the Indian Coast Guard. The minister directed that if need arises more resources be diverted for the SAR operations. He also reviewed the situation on ground as well as while flying over the area of operations in a P8 i Long Range Maritime Patrol Aircraft.
The minister was apprised of the difficult condition under which the operations are being undertaken in the last 24 hours. The state of the sea is 3 to 4 and is very choppy with thick monsoon clouds in the area making the search effort quite challenging.
It may be recalled, that on 22 July 16 an An-32 aircraft belonging to 33 Squadron of IAF which is located at Sulur, Coimbatore was on a scheduled courier sortie from Tambaram (Chennai) to Port Blair. The aircraft departed Tambaram at 0830 hrs with 06 crew members and 23 passengers. The aircraft was scheduled to arrive at Port Blair at 1145 hrs. The aircraft however did not make any contact with Air Traffic Control of Port Blair and an overdue action was initiated. The last Radar contact marked by Chennai Air Traffic Radar was East of Chennai at 151 NM. The aircraft was flying at 23000 ft.
As of now a massive search operation is in progress braving prevalent monsoon weather conditions and poor visibility wherein IAF, Indian Navy and Indian Coast Guard have pooled in all available resources to look for any possible sign of the aircraft in this vast swath of Bay of Bengal between Chennai and Port Blair.
IAF has deployed two C-130 aircraft equipped with Electro-optical and Infra-Red sensors. Indian Navy P8i aircraft equipped with Synthetic Aperture Radar along with Dorniers are also taking part in this operation. Indian Navy has deployed 13 ships in the search area and is being assisted by six ships of Indian Coast Guard and merchant vessels in the area. Indian Navy has also deployed one submarine for the task. The Maritime Rescue and Coordination Center at Chennai has been coordinating round the clock surveillance towards search effort along with Southern Air Command of IAF, Indian Navy and Indian Coast Guard.
Out of 29 people who were on-board six were crew members along with eleven IAF personnel, two from Indian Army and one person from Indian Coast Guard. Eight civilians working with Indian Navy along with one sailor from Indian Navy was also travelling in the aircraft. Raksha Manti has directed all commanders to be in touch with the families of the missing service personnel. Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha, Chief of Air Staff and Vice Admiral HCS Bisht, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Eastern Naval Command were also present during the review.