Four coast guard ships, a submarine and two Dornier aircraft deployed for search operations in Bay of Bengal
An Indian Air Force plane carrying 29 military personnel to a remote island chain in the Bay of Bengal went missing on Friday, the military said. The AN-32 was on its way to Port Blair, the capital of the Andaman and Nicobar chain of islands, from the southeast city of Chennai when it disappeared from radar.
A navy spokesman told Reuters surveillance planes and ships were searching for the aircraft. It was carrying service personnel to the strategic islands near the Malacca Straits, where India has a military base.
The last contact with the plane, which was carrying six crew members, was made around 15 minutes after take-off from the southern Indian city of Chennai, air force spokesman told AFP.
The Navy has pressed into service two Dornier aircraft and 13 ships with the Eastern Fleet Commander on board for the search and rescue operation 200 knot mile from east of Chennai.
While IAF has pressed into service a C130 plane along with two AN32, the Navy has deployed two P8i maritime surveillance and anti-submarine warfare aircraft from the strategically important Port Blair.
Navy spokesperson Captain D K Sharma said, "Navy has been deployed in full force in the Bay of Bengal for the search and rescue operation".
Meanwhile, Coast Guard said their reconnaissance Dornier aircraft has reached the site from where the IAF plane had sent the signals for the last time.
"Our Dornier (plane) has reached the site where the signals were sent by the (IAF) aircraft for the last time. We are looking for clues," said a senior Coast Guard official.
Coast Guard has rushed four ships--ICGS Sagar and Samudra Pehredar from Chennai and ICGS Rajshree and ICGS Rajveer from Port Blair--to the spot.
Another ships ICGS Vishwasth has been on stand-by at Prot Blair.
"The ships should reach the spot by night. But the rough sea is making the operations difficult," the official added.
Ministry of defence statement
"A search operation is on. The plane was airborne at 8:30 am (0300 GMT)and was supposed to land at Port Blair at 11:30," Wing Commander Anupam Banerjee said.
Defence sources said the plane was at about 23,000 feet when the last contact was established.
Known as the 'Sutlej' in the IAF, the An-32 is the workhorse of the transport fleet travelling to far-off bases such as Leh, Thoise, Kargil, other northern high-altitude areas in Ladakh and a number of ALGs (Advanced Landing Grounds) such as Mechuka, Along, Walong and Vijaynagar in the eastern sector in Arunachal Pradesh and adjoining areas to deliver much-needed supplies to the Army outposts. In the recent years, IAF’s An-32s have expanded their operations by landing at more remote airstrips such as Nyoma and, even DBO (Daulat Beg Oldie) in Aksai Chin.