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Search underway for missing Indian air force plane

23 July 2016 15:34

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India is still searching for an air force transport aircraft that disappeared over the Bay of Bengal with 29 people on board, with no indication of what happened to the ill-fated plane or sign of wreckage.

On Saturday, the Indian Defense Ministry said a large search and rescue operation has been launched by the air force, the navy and the coast guard in the “probable crash zone” in the waters of the Bay of Bengal.

The Russian-made Antonov-32 was en route from the southern city of Chennai to the coastal city of Port Blair on Friday when it disappeared from radar around 15 minutes after take-off at 8:30 a.m. local time (0300 GMT).

Indian media say four officers, 17 military personnel and eight civilians were aboard the doomed aircraft, which was on a routine re-supply flight to remote islands in the Bay of Bengal.

“There was no emergency communication message received from the plane. There is nothing to suggest what exactly happened,” said air force spokesman Anupam Banerjee.

Sixteen ships, a submarine and six planes, including two high-tech naval surveillance aircraft, are involved in the search operation, which is overseen by Indian Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar.

This is while military officials said the weather had been rough in the Bay of Bengal over the past few days due to the monsoon season.

According to a report by Times of India, the missing AN-32 had suffered three technical snags earlier this month, but officials say the snags were “minor in nature.”

The Indian air force uses AN-32s to ferry troops and cargo. The planes have a relatively good flight safety record, but they are old despite their ongoing life-extension and upgrade refits.

The South Asian nation has been trying to develop own warplanes, but delays and technical shortcomings have marred progress.

In 2013, all 20 people on board a military helicopter were killed when it crashed in northern India.

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