A transport aircraft of the Indian Air Force carrying at least 12 personnel went missing in Arunachal Pradesh on Tuesday afternoon.
The Soviet-origin Antonov-32 transport aircraft vanished from the radar screens shortly after taking off from an advanced landing ground at Mechuka in Upper Siang district of Arunachal Pradesh. An IAF spokesperson said that the plane was carrying a crew of six IAF personnel, including the pilot and navigator, while the remaining passengers were from the army.
Search and rescue operations have been hampered by poor visibility and will resume at first light on Wednesday. The aircraft was on a routine air maintenance mission. Several army outposts in the northeast are air maintained.
The aircraft, which can carry up to 40 passengers, was flying to Mohanbari in Assam. The aircraft belonged to a transport squadron based in Jorhat. The IAF operates five squadrons (around 100 aircraft) of the An-32s that were inducted in the early 1980s.
The last An-32 crash took place in February 2000 at the Vijaynagar advanced landing ground in Arunachal Pradesh, while another aircraft went down near Palam airport in March 1999 killing 21 personnel. In 1992, two AN-32 transport aircraft collided in mid air during formation flying.
India and Russia are jointly developing a multi-role transport aircraft (MRTA) to replace the ageing fleet of An-32s. The An-32s are to undergo an upgrade to improve avionics and increase engine lifespan. Three IAF fighters had crashed last month, including a top-of-the-line Su-30 fighter.