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Search teams have spotted the wreckage of the AN-32 transport aircraft that went missing with 13 persons on board shortly after take-off from Jorhat in Assam eight days ago, said the Indian Air Force (IAF) today (Tuesday, June 11).

“The wreckage of the missing #An32 was spotted today 16 Kms North of Lipo, North East of Tato at an approximate elevation of 12000 ft by the #IAF Mi-17 Helicopter undertaking search in the expanded search zone,” the IAF said in a tweet.

The wreckage has been 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.

“Efforts are now continuing to establish the status of occupants and establish survivors,” the Air Force tweeted.

The aircraft carrying six officers, five airmen and two non-combatants (enrolled) took off from Jorhat in Assam at 12.27 pm on June 3 for the Mechuka Advance Landing Ground in Arunachal Pradesh, where it was supposed to reach at 1.30 pm. The weather over the region was turbulent on the day and the aircraft’s last contact with ground agencies was at around 1.00 pm.

The Mechuka Advance Landing Ground is located in Mechuka Valley in West Siang District of Arunachal Pradesh. It is the closest landing ground to the India-China border near the McMohan line.

IAF’s 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.

Teams from the Army, Navy and Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) troops, supported by night-time sensors, besides policemen, local villagers and huntersworked through the night. The Air Force said the search area had been expanded despite challenges posed by vegetation, inhospitable terrain and poor weather.

On Saturday, IAF chief Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa had arrived in Jorhat to take stock of the operations and to meet the families of the missing men.

Antonov An-32 is a Russian-origin tactical transport aircraft that has been in service since 1984. It is a twin-engined military transport aircraft that can fly up to four hours without refuelling. Having undergone several upgrades, AN-32 has been a trustworthy workhorse for the IAF for many years and is designed for extensive use.

Ahead of the latest crash, the AN-32’s safety record has been blemished by two fatal crashes over the last decade. In July 2016, an AN-32 went down in the Bay of Bengal with 29 people on board. Neither the aircraft nor its wreckage was found. A decade ago, an AN-32 crashed in West Siang of Arunachal Pradesh killing all 13 men on board. The wreckage of that plane was spotted by a search team at over 12,000ft above sea level, more than 24 hours after it went down.

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