New Delhi: After eight days of an extensive search, the debris of Indian Air Force (IAF) AN-32 aircraft that went missing near Arunachal Pradesh on June 3 has been found on Tuesday. There were 13 people on-board of AN-32, a medium lift transport aircraft, which was on a routine flight from Jorhat in Assam to Mechuka Advanced Landing Ground (ALG) in Arunachal Pradesh when it went missing.

Top highlights

1. Forces are now trying to find the occupants of the plane and have sent a search team to find the survivors and the black box of the plane to ascertain what exactly happened.

2. After the continuous search operation in the bad weather and difficult terrain of north-east, the wreckage of the missing aircraft was spotted by Mi-17 helicopter of IAF. 

3. "The wreckage of the missing AN-32 was spotted today 16 kms North of Lipo, North East of Tato, at an approximate elevation of 12000 ft, by the IAF Mi-17 helicopter undertaking search in the expanded search zone," an official statement of IAF stated. It further stated, "Efforts are now continuing to establish the status of occupants and survivors. Further details will be communicated as the recovery actions progress."

4. However, the statement by IAF had no mention of the 13 people who were travelling in the AN-32 jet. Massive search operations have been going on in the area ever since the IAF jet went missing last week.

Also read: Missing AN-32 aircraft found 8 days after mishap

Why it took 8 days to find the plane

1. Indian Forces had pressed in all their responses and latest technology to know the exact location of the crash. Despite putting their might they failed to track it for 8 days, due to bad weather and the terrain in which the plane was flying. 

2. According to the officials, due to continuous heavy rain and thick cloud cover, it became extremely difficult to carry out an aerial search. At several occasions, the search operation had to be halted.

3. Another major factor was thick forest cover and hilly terrain. This area is tucked away from the crowd and there was hardly any input about the crash. The IAF on Saturday announced a reward of Rs 5 lakh to anyone providing information about the location of the AN-32 transport aircraft.

4. According to the officials, there had been no emission of distress signal by the AN-32 which could have helped in tracking it. If the emergency beacon signal was working it could have helped in reaching the crash site early. 

What resources were deployed?

1. All the three forces had deployed their best machines and latest technology to track the aircraft. For aerial search, there were a variety of planes which included Indian Air Force's C-130J aircraft, SU-30MKI fighter aircraft, P8I long-range reconnaissance aircraft of the Indian Navy, Advanced Light Helicopters (ALH), MI-17 helicopters and Cheetah helicopters. The P8I and SU-30 boost of power radars which can penetrate deep inside the thickly forested areas. The P8I has Synthetic Aperture Radar and Electro-Optical and Infra-Red (EO & IR) sensors. 

2. Satellite photography is also being used to help find out the location of the aircraft. Satellites such as CARTOSAT and RISAT are also taking photographs of the areas. The IAF has also deployed UAVs in the area and foot patrols of the Army. Total assets deployed include four MI-17 helicopters, three ALH (two of Army, one of IAF), 2 SU-30 MKI, One C-130 J, two Cheetah helicopters, one UAV and one P8I of the Navy.

What is IAF AN-32 aircraft?

The AN-32 is a twin-engine, tactical light transport aircraft designed and manufactured by Antonov Design Bureau of Ukraine for the Indian Air Force (IAF). It can fly up to four hours without refuelling. Having undergone several upgrades, AN-32 has been a trustworthy workhorse for the IAF for many years and is designed for extensive use. Designed to suit both military and civil operations, the AN-32 can take-off and land on rough airfields and dirt runways. The aircraft is designed to manoeuvre day and night in tropical and mountainous regions even in hot climatic conditions.

How IAF AN-32 went missing?

The aircraft carrying six officers, five airmen and two non-combatants (enrolled) took off from Jorhat in Assam at 12.27 pm on June 3 for the Mechuka Advance Landing Ground in Arunachal Pradesh, where it was supposed to reach at 1.30 pm. The weather over the region was turbulent on the day and the aircraft’s last contact with ground agencies was at around 1.00 pm.