Indian Navy seeks space agency's help to locate missing air force plane

The Russian-made AN-32 was on its way to Port Blair, the capital of India's Andaman and Nicobar islands, when it disappeared from radar. (Representative Image) Photograph:( Getty )

Reuters Uttar Pradesh, India Jul 24, 2016, 01.12 PM (IST)
Two days after an Indian Air Force plane went missing, Indian Navy has sought the help of space agency, a senior navy official said today. 

The plane carrying 29, including 21 military personnel, six crew members and civilians, went missing in the Bay of Bengal on Friday.

The AN-32 was on its way to Port Blair, the capital of India's Andaman and Nicobar islands, when it disappeared from radar.

The Vice-Admiral of Eastern Naval command, HC Bisht, said Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)'s help has been sought in locating the plane.

"Continuous search is going on by large number of ships. We are augmenting the search effort by larger number of ships, aircraft, helicopters, coast guard ships, air force aircraft, all these are contributing to the search effort and search effort is increasing. In addition, we are also asking for ISRO's help for satellite imaging of that area so that we have at least some information," said Bisht in the southern city of Visakhapatnam after meeting family members of Bhupath Singh, an employee of the Naval Armament Depot who was aboard the missing plane.

Meanwhile, family members of missing people are keeping their fingers crossed.

In northern Allahabad city, aircraftman Laxmi Kant Tripathi's family was inconsolable.

"He called up and said that he will leave for Andaman at around 8 pm-8:30 pm (GMT 1430-1500 hours) and then call up but I never received any call after that," said crying mother of Laxmi Kant, Meena Tripathi.

"Till now we have received no information. Yesterday some officials came and told us that as soon as they receive any information, they'll inform us. We are waiting but still no information has been received," said father of missing aircraftman, Narendra Nath Tripathi.

Sixteen ships, six planes and a submarine have been pressed into search for the aircraft in one of India's largest search and rescue operations in recent years.

Military officials said the weather had been rough in the Bay of Bengal over the last two days because of the monsoon season, hindering search operations.

The AN-32 is a workhorse of the air force, chosen for its ability to operate from short runways.

The air force has 101 of the AN-32s that entered service in 1984 and have gone through mid-life upgrades and life extensions since then.