A MiG-29 aircraft is feared to have crashed in Himachal Pradesh's Lahaul Valley during a night flying exercise, the police said on Wednesday.
Two MiG-29 planes of the western air command had taken off from Adampur airport near Jalandhar on Tuesday night. However, only one returned to the air base, Indian Air Force (IAF) officers said.
There is no official confirmation about the number of people on board the missing aircraft.
Two IAF cheetah helicopters began a search operation on Wednesday morning to locate the missing aircraft in the treacherous mountain terrain. Sukhoi-30 fighters have also been pressed into service.
"After searching the mountains for more than two hours, the choppers have returned to their base," said Rajiv Shankar, deputy commissioner, Lahaul and Spiti district.
The missing aircraft was on its way to Leh when pilot squadron leader DS Tomar reportedly lost communication with air traffic control at 8.30pm on Tuesday.
Villagers told the police that they saw a "fireball" in the sky falling into the mountains.
"The plane seems to have gone missing at the mountain stretch between Chokhang Khang and Nyanmar glacier," Shankar said.
The local administration launched a search operation in the area after air force officials informed the deputy commissioner about the missing plane.
"The ground level search continued till 6am on Wednesday," Shankar said.
A police search party has also been rushed to the hilltop to locate the wreckage.
"It is still not clear if the pilot managed to eject out safely," district superintendent of police Bimal Gupta said. This is the seventh air crash involving the IAF's fighter aircraft this year.