Indian Navy Searches for Missing Transport Aircraft
The Indian Navy and Coast Guard have mounted a massive search and rescue mission – eight aircraft, 13 ships and a submarine – to look for the 29 passengers and crew of an Air Force AN-32 transport plane which went missing over the Bay of Bengal on Friday.
The personnel on the routine courier flight to the Andaman Islands included six crewmembers, plus servicemembers representing every branch of the Indian armed forces – 11 from the Air Force, two from the Army, one from the Coast Guard and nine from the navy.
The plane was last in contact at 23,000 feet. It took off at 0830 and did not arrive as scheduled at 1130, an Air Force spokesman said. Weather had been rough in the area for several days.
The aircraft was last detected on radar 151 nautical miles east of Chennai, making a left turn with a rapid loss of height from 23,000 ft, according to a note provided by the air force to India’s Defence Ministry. The search area is focused about 200 nm off of Chennai.
The plane had been overhauled late last year, but had reported three technical faults in the past month, the Defense Ministry said.
The Indian Air Force has a fleet of over 100 of Antonov AN-32s, in service since the 1980s, and they are slated for a $400 million avionics upgrade and modernization program by the Ukrainian arms trading firm Ukrspetsexport. That program has faced severe delays due to ongoing tensions between Ukraine and Russia; parts shipments from Russia have not arrived. In February, news broke that the IAF had issued a request for proposals to Indian firms for domestic refurbishment of the Cold War-era AN-32s, including modifications to wing structures, ultrasonic inspections and repainting, among other scope of work.
The IAF had been talks with Russia over the purchase of a replacement aircraft series, but the negotiations broke down recently over disputes on cost and powerplant selection.