New Delhi: A massive search operation is underway to locate the missing Indian Air Force (IAF) AN-32 aircraft with 13 people, including eight crew members and five passengers, on board. The search operation is being carried out by C-130J and ground patrols of the Army, news agency ANI reported.

Notably, the transport aircraft went missing in Arunachal Pradesh on Monday. The plane had taken off from Assam’s Jorhat airbase at 12:25 pm when it lost contact with ground staff.

After the contact was lost, efforts are on by the Indian Air Force to locate the aircraft as it has not yet reached its destination.

“The plane was on an air maintenance mission, an official told Hindustan Times.

Taking to micro-blogging site Twitter on Monday, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said that that he was keeping track of the situation. “Spoke to Vice Chief of IAF, Air Marshal Rakesh Singh Bhadauria regarding the missing IAF AN-32 Aircraft which is overdue for some hours. He has apprised me of steps taken by IAF to find the aircraft. I pray for the safety of all passengers on board,” Singh tweeted.

The disappearance of AN-32 today brought back agonising memories of another plane of the transport fleet going missing over the Bay of Bengal in 2016. The Russian-origin plane with 29 people on board, including six crew members, had gone missing in June, three years ago, while flying from Chennai to Port Blair.

The aircraft had taken off at 8:30 am from Tambaram in Chennai and the last time it was contacted was 16 minutes later, defence sources had then said. A few months after the incident, a Court of Inquiry had concluded that those on board the missing aircraft of the IAF were to be “presumed dead”.

Similarly, in 2009, the IAF had lost another AN-32 aircraft which crashed near a village in West Siang district of Arunachal Pradesh, killing all the 13 defence personnel in the mishap.