New Delhi, Dec 9 (IANS) All transport aircraft and helicopters of Indian Air Force which fly over the sea have been fitted with an Underwater Locating Beacon, Parliament was told on Friday.
“All transport aircraft and helicopters of IAF undertaking maritime operations have now been equipped with Underwater Locating Beacon,” Minister of State for Defence Subhash Bhamre informed Lok Sabha in a written reply.
The minister was replying to a question on the AN-32 aircraft, that went missing in the Bay of Bengal in July, and could not be located despite extensive searches as it did not have this device fitted.
The Indian Air Force aircraft, on a routine sortie from IAF Station Tambaram to Port Blair went missing at 12.25 p.m. on July 22, approximately 150 nautical miles East of Chennai.
A massive search operation involving 18 Indian Navy ships, one submarine and eight Coast Guard ships was undertaken, with this armada undertaking a total of 301 ship days of search. In addition 14 Indian Navy aircraft, six Indian Coast Guard aircraft and 10 IAF aircraft were deployed for the search and undertook around 1,280 hours of flying for the mission.
Geological Survey of India vessel Samudra Ratnakar was also deployed to undertake sub-bottom profiling in the area and National Institute of Oceanography and Technology vessel Sagar Nidhi was deployed to carry out sea bed search using Remotely Operated Vehicle to a depth of 3000m.
The National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC), Hyderabad was requested for high-resolution satellite image of area around datum. Indigenous satellite such as CARTOSAT 2A & 2B which have a resolution of 0.8m were also used for satellite imagery. However, no concrete evidence with respect to missing IAF AN-32 aircraft has emerged.
Assistance of the US and the Russian Navy was also taken but to no avail.