Rs 5 lakh cash award announced for info on missing AN-32
The announcement, described as unprecedented by air force officers, comes after a massive search and rescue operation to trace the missing aircraft yielded no results for the sixth consecutive day.Updated: Jun 08, 2019 23:59 IST
The Indian Air Force (IAF) on Saturday announced Rs 5 lakh award to any individual or group for providing credible information on the location of the Soviet-origin Antonov-32 transport plane that went missing with 13 men on board in Arunachal Pradesh on June 3.
The announcement, described as unprecedented by air force officers, comes after a massive search and rescue operation to trace the missing aircraft yielded no results for the sixth consecutive day.
Eight serving and retired IAF officers, including former Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha, and senior officials of the defence think tank Centre for Air Power Studies (CAPS) said they could not recall when such a monetary incentive was last offered for information on a missing aircraft.
“While the search for the missing aircraft is on , Air Marshal RD Mathur , AOC-in-C , Eastern Air Command, has announced a cash award of Rs 5 Lakhs for the person(s) or group who provide credible information leading to finding of the aircraft,” IAF spokesperson Wing Commander Ratnakar Singh said in a statement that also listed phone numbers to contact the force.
The AN-32 – with eight air crew and five passengers on board -- had taken off from Jorhat in Assam at 12:27pm and was on its way to an advanced landing ground at Mechuka in Arunachal Pradesh’s West Siang district when it disappeared from the radar around 1pm. Mechuka is about 15km from the Line of Actual Control, the disputed border with China.
Earlier on Saturday, Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa visited the air force station in Assam’s Jorhat, where he was briefed by top officials about the ongoing search and rescue operation for the missing AN-32 aircraft. He also interacted with the family members of the missing personnel.
“Air Chief Marshal Dhanoa was given a detailed briefing about the operations and was apprised with the inputs received so far,” an IAF spokesperson said.
Aerial search could not be undertaken on Saturday due to poor weather conditions, even as ground troops continued combing the mountainous area. “Combined with the inhospitable terrain, the weather has posed serious challenges to aerial search operations,” the IAF spokesperson said.
Advanced technology and sensors, including satellites of the Indian Space Research Agency (Isro) have also been employed to trace the aircraft. Moreover, personnel from the Indian Army, the state police and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) along with locals carried out search operations on the ground on Saturday.
An aircraft belonging to the Aviation Research Centre (ARC), the air surveillance division of Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW), had joined the search efforts on Friday. Besides ARC’s Global 5000 surveillance jet, Sukhoi-30s, Mi-17 choppers, advanced light helicopters, C-130Js, the Indian Navy’s P-81, army UAVs and Cheetah choppers have been involved in the massive search.
“Indian Air Force has increased the deployment of its helicopters and transport aircraft and has expanded the search area significantly since the beginning of the operations,” the IAF said in a Twitter post on Saturday.
Another AN-32 aircraft had gone missing while taking off from Chennai for Port Blair with 29 people on board in July 2016. The aircraft could not be traced following weeks of massive search operations, with the IAF court of inquiry concluding that it was unlikely that the missing personnel would have survived the accident.