February 27, 2024

Missing Sukhoi: IAF expands search into Bhutan

TAP | Updated: May 25, 2017

TEZPUR, May 25: The Sukhoi Su-30 MKI missing since Tuesday has not yet been located. The search on Thursday was extended beyond West Kameng district in Arunachal Pradesh into Bhutan.

Defence spokesperson Lt Col Sombit Ghosh said nine parties of the Indian Army and two of the state administration resumed the search for the jet and two pilots Thursday morning.

A Su-30 and C-130 aircraft with electro-optical payload, an advanced light helicopter and Chetak helicopters of Indian Air Force were utilised for the search mission.

“Till now, no breakthrough has been made in locating the aircraft and its pilots,” he said.

Manoj Kumar Deka, deputy commissioner of Sonitpur district said: "I cannot confirm (its location) to you now, but there is some positive information trickling in. When we were informed that the aircraft had gone missing we activated all our administrative network including village heads and circle offices for sighting of any wreckage or of the aircraft itself. But the actual search and rescue information has to be provided by the Indian Air Force only." Sonitpur district Deputy Commissioner Manoj Kumar Deka said.

His West Kameng counterpart Sonal Swaroop said the district administration deployed two teams – one with 170 people and the other with 120 – including state police personnel for the search operation.

“Along with Army personnel, nearly 700 people are looking for the aircraft. Yesterday, we contacted our counterparts in the eastern Bhutan districts of Trashigang and Trashiyangtse and sought their help as well. In Arunachal Pradesh, the search is limited to the West Kameng district only. We are doing a dawn to dusk search and the weather is a concern as it is very cloudy. The terrain is also a challenge due to dense forest," she said.

The IAF said the search operation was continuing despite overcast sky and spells of rain and thundershowers in parts of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh where the SU-30 MKI plane is suspected to have crashed.

An IAF spokesperson said in New Delhi that a Su-30 aircraft with reconnaissance capabilities is also being utilised for locating the missing plane. Apart from search parties of the Army and state administration, four groups of IAF personnel are scanning for the missing jet.

“Marginal weather (adverse to a military operation) prevailing over the area being searched is hampering the operation,” IAF spokesperson Wing Commander Anupam Banerjee said.

The Sukhoi jet went missing after taking off from Tezpur Air Force station at 10:30 am on Tuesday. The plane, which was part of a two-aircraft formation, was on a routine training sortie and had lost radar and radio contact around 60 km northeast of the airbase.

The last contact with the plane was made when it was flying over Dubia in Gohpur sub-division of Biswanath district, adjacent to Sonitpur.

The first batch of the Russia-made fighter jet was inducted by the IAF in the late 1990s. Since their induction, seven crashes have taken place.

The country's frontline SU-30 MKI aircraft were deployed in the Tezpur airbase on June 15, 2009 for guarding the Sino-India frontier in Arunachal Pradesh.

At present, two squadrons comprising around 36 aircraft are deployed at Tezpur. (Agency)