The Indian Navy has sought the help of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) for satellite image of the area in which the Indian Air Force (IAF) Antonov-32 aircraft with 29 people on board went missing as search operations entered the third day.
Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar also reached Chennai on Saturday to oversee the search operations and also joined a sortie conducted by the armed forces. He was also briefed on the search and rescue operations being carried out by the Navy, Air Force and the Coast Guard.
"Efforts are on to trace IAF AN 32 aircraft and our Service personnel on board. Visited Arakkonam today to monitor search ops for IAF AN 32. Max resources in use by IAF, Navy, Coast Guard in difficult weather conditions," Parrikar said in a series of tweets.
Meanwhile, an FIR has been lodged at the Selaiyur Police Station by Wing Commander Thiru Jabardeep Singh of IAF Tambaram for the missing aircraft and the passengers on board.
Vice Admiral HCS Bisht, the Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Eastern Naval Command, said that they were "also reaching out to the families" and "passing them the information on regular basis."
"Only challenge we are facing is of monsoon conditions, rough seas and another factor is depth in the areas. The depth is 3,500 metres. As the depth increases, challenges become much more severe. That's something we are grappling with but that notwithstanding, we're searching the area. We are continuously working, hoping to get some fruitful information," HCS Bisht was quoted by ANI as saying.
At least 18 Navy and Coast Guard ships, including a submarine and 16 aircraft including P8-I, C 130 and Dorniers, have been deployed in the joint operation to locate the AN-32 plane which went missing on Friday after it took off for Port Blair from the Tambaram air base near Chennai at 8.30 a.m.
"Ships and aircraft from Andaman and Nicobar region are carrying out search in areas along the flight track from Chennai to Port Blair," Coast Guard was quoted by the agency as saying, while adding that merchant vessels have also been advised to look out for signs of the missing plane.
This is not the first time an IAF plane has gone missing.
An IAF AN-12-BL-534 aircraft carrying 98 defence personnel went missing in 1968 while on its way to Leh from Chandigarh. Due to bad weather conditions, the pilot was told to go back to Chandigarh. On the way back, the aircraft suddenly lost contact with ground control while flying over Leh.
A full-scale search operation went on for months but without any success.
In 2003, a trekking group stumbled upon human remains in northern Himachal. The corpse was identified as that of army soldier Beli Ram who happened to be one of the passengers on board IAF AN-12.
A team was sent to recover more human remains. It was also found that the aircraft had descended before time and crashed into the Dakka glacier.