Nine months after a MIG-29 crashed in Lahaul, the Indian Air Force (IAF) and the army will launch a joint operation to resume the search for missing pilot squadron leader DS Tomar and the flight data recorder of the plane.
The rise in temperature, which has led to the melting of snow in mountains, has revived hopes of locating the wreckage of the plane that reportedly exploded mid-air.
Two planes had left the Adampur airbase in Jalandhar on October 18 last year; while one returned, the other, being flown by 32-year-old Tomar, went missing.
Due to heavy snowfall and hostile weather, the IAF had to call off the search operation in November.
"The IAF has sent a communiqué to resume the search operation from July 20," said Shyam Singh Guleria, deputy commissioner (DC), Lahaul and Spiti.
"A team from the air force station will arrive here soon," said Guleria, while adding that the district administration will also send a team of trekkers from the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Institute of Mountaineering to check the area that had earlier been earmarked by the IAF. "The team will do a recce of the area before the air force resumes search operation," said Guleria.
The IAF had launched a massive search after the plane went missing. It had even called in mountaineers from the army's High Altitude Warfare School (HAWS) to supplement ground search initiated on the peaks between Chokang village and Gangsten glacier, where the local villagers heard the sound of explosion.
Equipped with sophisticated equipment to trace plane debris buried under snow, engineers from 17 Engineering Regiment along with three battalions of Ladakh Scouts and one battalion of Jammu and Kashmir Rifles conducted ground search. Army units involved had also pressed into service sniffer dogs to locate the missing pilot.
Last year, the kin of the pilot had announced a reward of Rs 50,000 for any vital information about him. The family members of Tomar were in Keylong recently; they also visited Miarh valley and met villagers of Naingarh and even visited remote Darcha in the hope to find some clue about the pilot. "The kin of the missing pilot met the villagers here a few days back and they would return when the search operation is resumed," said a police official in Keylong.
The IAF had managed to locate some parts of the aircraft with the help of the army and local villagers but without much success in locating the main wreckage. It had deployed its unmanned aerial vehicles and fighter aircraft such as the SU-30MKI and the Jaguars to locate the aircraft and has flown close to 160 sorties for the search.