Over a week after a MiG-29 aircraft crashed in the mountains, the Indian Air Force on Thursday announced that a search party located the site at 15,000 feet above Chokhang village in Lahaul area of Himachal Pradesh.
The aircraft, flown by Sqd. Ldr. D.S. Tomar, and another took off from Adampur in Jalandhar for a high-altitude night-flying exercise on October 18. It crashed while executing a turn.
There is no word about the pilot. IAF officers said he was a highly-experienced pilot, who recently completed the fighter combat leadership course.
The Western Air Command, under whose operational jurisdiction the area falls, said its task force Commander Group Captain P. K. Sharma, who was coordinating the search operation, confirmed locating the crash site. The search party recovered under snow and rubble several aircraft components and they were taken to the base camp at 13,000 feet for proper identification.
After mounting the search and rescue mission, the IAF flew 149 sorties and narrowed down to the location through images obtained, including from remotely piloted aircraft. However, the crashed aircraft's remains could not be identified as the MiG29 had disintegrated into small pieces and the debris was spread across the slopes on either side of the ridge.
Subsequently, the Thirot village head retrieved some components with the help of local people, which the IAF identified to be of the MiG-29, WAC spokesman Wg. Cdr Sandeep Mehta said.
The IAF search teams that included eight expert mountaineers were dropped on the ledge 200m above the suspected crash site to recover the remains. Overall, 55 personnel, including IAF, Army and local mountaineers, were associated in the search mission.
The task force commander undertook aerial reconnaissance by helicopter to guide the teams under Wg. Cdr, S.K. Kutty and Sqd. Ldr. N. Rawat, to precise locations. Besides facing the vagaries of cold weather and difficult terrain, the teams were under threat from wildlife as fresh snow had pug marks of animals — suspected to be of bear — in the area, the WAC said.