New Delhi: The aerial search-and-rescue (SAR) operations for the missing IAF aircraft AN 32 could not take place on Sunday due to bad weather and low clouds. The Helicopters, UAV and C-130J were airborne for missions. However, owing to the rains, they were landed back. The SAR operations by the ground party are meanwhile underway and will continue through the night.

Notably, the ground teams have made considerable headway into the search area, which has been progressively expanded, as per inputs received from multiple sources. The ground forces include troops from the Army, Indo Tibetan Border Police and state police.

The Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa on Saturday reviewed the overall search operation at a high-level meeting in Assam’s Jorhat airbase from where the AN-32 aircraft, with 13 people on board, had taken off for Mechuka advanced landing ground on Monday, IAF officials said.

“Air Chief Marshal Dhanoa was given a detailed briefing about the operations and was apprised with the inputs received so far. He interacted with families of the officers and airmen who were onboard the aircraft,” said an IAF spokesperson.

The IAF’s massive search operation is to trace the missing plane. The assets deployed for the operation include Sukhoi-30 aircraft in addition to a fleet of C-130J and AN-32 planes and Mi-17 and ALH helicopters.

“The area of search is mountainous and heavily forested with thick undergrowth. The weather in the area has been inclement with low clouds and rain during most hours,” said the IAF spokesperson on Saturday. The official added, “Combined with the inhospitable terrain, the weather has posed serious challenges to aerial search operations.”

The Indian Navy’s P-8I aircraft was deployed earlier this week as it has electro-optical and infra-red sensors which could be helpful in the search operation. IAF officials said ISRO’s Cartosat and RISAT satellites are taking images of the area around Menchuka to help the rescuers find the plane.

The AN-32 aircraft took off from Jorhat at 12.27 pm for the Menchuka advance landing ground and its last contact with the ground control was at 1 pm. A total of eight aircrews and five passengers were on board the aircraft.

(With agency inputs)