IAF plane with 29 aboard missing, search launched (Third Lead)

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Chennai/New Delhi, July 22 (IANS) An AN-32 transport aircraft of the Indian Air Force (IAF) with 29 people on board went missing over the Bay of Bengal on Friday, Defence Ministry officials said, adding that a full-scale search and rescue mission has been launched.

The aircraft took off from Tambaram Air Force Station in Chennai at 8.30 a.m., and was expected to land at Port Blair at 11.30 a.m., officials said.

“The aircraft departed at 8.30 a.m. and was due at Port Blair at 11.30 a.m. The aircraft has not reached. Search operations are on,” said a Defence Ministry official.

According to sources, the aircraft went off radar a little after 9 a.m.

A full-scale search and rescue operation was launched by the Indian Navy and Coast Guard.

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Indian Navy spokesperson D.K. Sharma said a P-8I surveillance aircraft, a Dornier and several ships have been deployed in the search and rescue operation.

Ships deployed for the search include Shivalik-class stealth frigate INS Sahyadri, guided-missile destroyers INS Rajput and Ranvijay, corvettes Kamorta, Kirch, Karmuk, Kora, Kuthar, fleet tankers INS Shakti, and INS Jyoti, amphibious warfare vessel INS Gharial and patrol vessel INS Sukanya, the Indian Navy said.

The IAF at present has a fleet of over 100 AN-32s in service.

The Russian-origin aircraft is known for its excellent take-off characteristics in hot and high conditions, and is suitable for use as a medium tactical military transport. The twin-engine aircraft is primarily used for transporting cargo, passengers, including skydivers or paratroopers, as well as in fore-fighting.

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