The An-32 aircraft had 13 people on board and the IAF said efforts are on to establish the status of the occupants. (Reuters file photo)
After a rescue operation that ran for eight days, the wreckage of the crashed An-32 aircraft of the Indian Air Force was finally spotted but the next big challenge before the rescuers is to physically get to the site -- all while fighting the tough terrain and inhospitable weather.
The wreckage of the An-32 aircraft of the Indian Air Force was spotted on Tuesday 16 km north of Lipo in Arunachal Pradesh. After the identification of the wreckage of An-32 by Mi-17V5, Cheetah of IAF and Advanced Light Helicopters (ALH) of Indian Army reached the crash site. Due to high elevation and dense forest, helicopters could not land next to the crash site.
However, the Indian Air Force has said that the nearest landing site has been identified and rescue operation by helicopters will commence tomorrow early morning. Ground forces will continue to reach the crash site during the night.
While the Indian Air Force is likely to airdrop its Garud commandos along with local teams, carrying out combing operations in the thickly forested areas remains a daunting task.
Low hanging clouds make visibility extremely poor and that could be a challenge.
The other option before the authorities is to send ground teams on foot but they will take more than 24 hours to reach the spot and the operation entails crossing a river and walking through a dense forest.
Explaining the terrain where the An-32 wreckage has been spotted, an official said the "location where the wreckage has been sighted is a ridge, and if there is a requirement to cross the ridge it will extremely challenging."
The An-32 aircraft had 13 people on board and the IAF said efforts are on to establish the status of the occupants.
Now that the area of wreckage has been spotted, the next task is to carry out ground operations to identify the 13 personnel onboard. Combing operations will be carried out to get any possible clue. It’s a fairly large area, so it will require a high number of people to do the job, said the official.
Also, the teams hitting the ground will have to be prepared to camp in the area even if they are air dropped because flying every day might not be possible due to the harsh weather, sources said.
Efforts are now continuing to establish the status of occupants and establish survivors, IAF said in a statement.
The An-32 of the Indian Air Force went missing June 3, after flying from the Air Force Station in Jorhat, Assam.
The wreckage of the aircraft was spotted 16 km north of Lipo, northeast of Tato at an approximate elevation of 12000 ft by the IAF Mi-17 helicopter undertaking search in the expanded search zone, the Air Force said. The Russian-origin An-32 aircraft lost contact on the afternoon of June 3 after taking off from Jorhat for Menchuka advanced landing ground near the border with China.
A total of eight aircrew and five passengers were on board the aircraft.
The An-32 is a twin-engine turboprop transport aircraft and the IAF currently operates a sizeable number of it.
The IAF launched a massive operation to trace the missing aircraft but the search was badly hit by poor weather conditions.
In the last eight days, ISRO satellites, the Indian Navy’s reconnaissance P8i and all possible aerial surveillance operations were used along with ground teams of the Indian Army and Indo Tibetan Border Police were used to carry out search operations for the wreckage.
The assets deployed for the operation included Sukhoi-30 aircraft in addition to a fleet of C-130J and AN-32 planes and Mi-17 and ALH helicopters. The ground forces included troops from the Army, Indo Tibetan Border Police and state police.