A transport plane of the Indian Air Force with 29 people on board went missing while flying from Chennai to Port Blair on Friday, the military said.
The Russian-made AN-32 aircraft, which is believed to have disappeared over the Bay of Bengal, took off at 8.30am from Tambaram in Chennai.
The last contact with it was made at 9:16am, about 151 nautical miles east of Chennai. The aircraft was to reach Port Blair in the Andaman and Nicobar islands at 11:45am, defence sources said. The aircraft was at a height of 23,000 feet and losing altitude when the ground control lost contact.
The Coast Guard and IAF have launched operations to find the aircraft, which had six crew members on board. The aircraft was carrying service personnel to the strategic islands near the Malacca Straits, where India has a military base.
A P-8I surveillance aircraft, one Dornier and several ships, including Shivalik-class stealth frigate INS Sahyadri, guided-missile destroyers INS Rajput and Ranvijay, were deployed in the search operation, officials said.
Defence sources said the search operation was being carried out 200 nautical miles from east of Chennai.
The AN-32 is a Russian-origin military transport aircraft that has been in service with the IAF since 1984. The aircraft can fly for up to four hours without refuelling.
The IAF at present has a fleet of over 100 AN-32s in service. India’s AN-32 fleet is currently being upgraded and modernised with advanced avionics, communications systems, landing aids, new oxygen systems and better seats.
(With agency inputs)