The wreckage of an An-32 aircraft that went missing with 13 on board last week was found in Arunachal Pradesh on Tuesday after eight days of intense search by the Indian Air Force. The first image of the crash site, taken directly from above and shared by sources, shows debris from the aircraft and charred trees, indicating a big fire when the plane would have gone down.
The wreckage was found in Payum Circle of Siang district. It was spotted by a Mi-17 helicopter of the Indian Air Force, at a height of around 12,000 feet.
The Air Force says due to high elevation and dense forest, helicopters could not land next to the crash site. However, the nearest landing site has been identified and the rescue operation by helicopters began this morning. Ground forces reached the crash site at night.
The plane was traveling from Jorhat in Assam to a remote military landing strip in Mechuka in Arunachal Pradesh when it vanished from the radar around 1 pm on June 3.
IAF C-130J transport aircraft, Sukhoi Su-30 fighter jets, NAVY P8-I search aircraft and a fleet of IAF and Army helicopters had been searching for the aircraft. ISRO satellites and unmanned drones were also involved in the search operations.
The search was difficult because of the tough terrain and bad weather. The spot where the plane had been flying is mountainous and heavily forested; landing and take-off at Mechuka are extremely difficult. Coupled with erratic weather, the region is among the world's most inhospitable for air transport.
The plane's Search and Rescue Beacon had not been in production for 14 years, and no signal had been detected. This distress signal was meant to have been picked up by a satellite belonging to Cospas-Sarsat, an international satellite-aided search and rescue facility.
The An-32 is a Soviet-designed twin engine turboprop transport aircraft used extensively by the Indian Air Force for over four decades. Since it joined the IAF fleet, the rugged planes used to ferry people and air-drop supplies have undergone several rounds of upgrades.
A total of nine aircraft of security forces have crashed this year so far. This includes a Jaguar, two MiG-27 jets, two MiG-21 jets, a MiG-17, a Mirage 2000, a Suryakiran Hawk x 2 and one An-32.