Missing An-32: Focus shifts to underwater search operations

A file photo of IAF’s An-32 transport aircraft. The aerial and surface searches too will continue.

A file photo of IAF’s An-32 transport aircraft. The aerial and surface searches too will continue.   | Photo Credit: Mustafa Quraishi

INS Nirupak joins the hunt; assistance sought from Geological Survey of India

After six days of intense aerial and surface scanning for the missing An-32 aircraft, the search and rescue operations are now shifting significantly under water, with additional deployment of specialised vehicles that can go deep into the sea.

While the aerial and surface searches will continue, officials said the strengthening of underwater capabilities is primarily because of two reasons: the lack of any credible leads yet, and the likelihood of the aircraft being deep under the sea.

‘No concrete evidence’

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said in the Lok Sabha on Thursday that no concrete evidence on the missing aircraft had emerged so far. “Current search operations are focused on surface and underwater domain to look for survivors and debris,” he informed the House.

In addition to the Navy submarine which was deployed a few days ago, several other underwater assets were being pressed into service to monitor the sea bad. The general depth in the search area is about 3-3.5 km.

INS Nirupak, with autonomous underwater vehicle and camera, joined the search on Wednesday. Assistance has also been sought from the Geological Survey of India for the deployment of its Oceanographic research vessel, Samundra Ratnakar, for sub surface search. In addition, the National Institute of Ocean Technology research vessel, Sagar Nidhi, is expected to reach the search area in a few days for conducting sea bed profiling.

Briefing Parliament on the events of the day of the crash, Mr. Parrikar said weather in the area, approx. 500 km East of Tambaram, was mainly overcast with multi-layered clouds and embedded convection. “One thundershower cloud was reported in the area. The aircraft had weather avoidance radar and had asked for deviation to the right to avoid it,” he observed.

The An-32 of the Indian Air Force took off on a routine weekly courier flight from Chennai to Port Blair on July 22 at 08.30 hrs with six crew and 23 personnel on board. It was scheduled to arrive at Port Blair at 11.30 hrs and it was last seen on the radar at 09.00hrs.

Mr. Parrikar said 13 Navy and four Coast Guard ships, and one submarine had been deployed in the search area. All merchant vessels passing through the area had been asked to report any sighting.

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Printable version | Feb 18, 2020 7:09:09 PM |

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