The Indian Air Force on Saturday announced a reward of Rs 5 lakh to anyone providing information about location of the AN-32 transport aircraft which went missing six days ago around remote Mechuka in Arunachal Pradesh. Officer Commanding-in-Chief of Eastern Air Command Air Marshal R D Mathur made the announcement of the cash reward as the aircraft could not be located after six days of massive search operation.
“While the search for the missing aircraft is on, Air Marshal RD Mathur, AOC-in-C of Eastern Air Command, has announced a cash award of Rs 5 Lakh for person(s) or group who provide credible information leading to finding of the aircraft,” a Shillong-based spokesperson of the IAF said. Phone numbers for sharing information relating to the aircraft are — 9436499477 / 9402077267 / 9402132477, he said.
The Russian-origin AN-32 aircraft with 13 people on board lost contact on Monday afternoon 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. 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.
Air Chief Marshal B S 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.