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Missing Odia IAF Officer's Father Insists On Ground Search


07 June 2019

Baibhav Mishra


Bhubaneswar: The crew of the An-32 aircraft which went missing in Arunanchal Pradesh on Monday has an Odia officer, Flight Lieutenant Sunit Mohanty hailing from Ganjam district of the State. Sunit was commissioned into the Indian Air Force (IAF) in 2013 and is a bright officer, said his father Group Captain (retd) Surendranath Mohanty.

Speaking to OMMCOM NEWS, Mohanty said that he has taken up the matter of search and rescue at the highest levels of the Defence Ministry. Having served the IAF for 33 years, Mohanty now works with domestic airliner. "It is extremely unfortunate. We have many dreams attached to Sunit and never expected such an unfortunate event," he said.

Mohanty said that 'ground search' is very crucial when search and rescue (SAF) operations are carried out in treacherous terrains. "The ground search should have started rightaway after the reports came in. In such terrains it is not an easy task for airborne jets to locate an aircraft which might have jostled in the woods," he said.

"The Centre should also take up the matter with Chinese authorities as there are chances of the ill-fated aircraft drifting into foreign territory. The Chinese are dangerous people and at this stage we cannot rule out their capture," the IAF veteran who has himself flown the An-32 for 5 years, added.

Six officers, Wing Commander G M Charles, Squadron Leader H Vinod, Flight Lieutenants Mohit Garg, Sumit Mohanty, Ashish Tanwar and Rajesh Thapa, and seven other ranks (Sergeant Anoop, Corporal Sharin, warrant officer K K Mishra, airmen Pankaj Sangwan, S K Singh, Rajesh Kumar and Putali) were on board the ill-fated plane that went missing on way to Mechuka (Arunachal) from Jorhat (Assam) on June 3.

All the three armed forces have deployed their assets to trace the aircraft. However, the search-and-rescue (SAR) operation has met with little success so far due to the difficult terrain and rough weather.

According to sources, the rescuers have not received any signal from the emergency locator beacon in the missing plane and there is a possibility that the device may not have been functional.

The Indian Air Force (IAF) on Thursday said it has intensified the search operation to trace the An-32 aircraft that has gone missing in Arunachal Pradesh after taking off from Assam's Jorhat. It has deployed more assets and roped in the local civic and police agencies in its effort.

The Russian-made aircraft took off from Jorhat at 12.27 pm on Monday for the Mechuka Advanced Landing Ground. Its last contact with the ground control was at 1 pm.

"The IAF has further intensified and expanded search for the missing An-32. Fighter aircraft, C130, helicopters, aircraft carrying specialised sensors, satellites and all possible civil, police and local administrative agencies have further expanded search based on human and sensor inputs," the Air Force said in a statement.

The Indian Navy's P-8i aircraft was deployed on Tuesday as it had electro-optical and infra-red sensors, which could be helpful in the search operation.

IAF officials said the Indian Space Research Organisation's (ISRO) Cartosat and RISAT satellites were capturing images of the area around Mechuka to help the rescuers find the plane.

"The IAF remains committed to continued efforts to locate the aircraft and its brave air warriors. The IAF has flown more than 100 hours in search operations. No effort is being spared to locate the missing aircraft," the statement added.