Chennai/New Delhi, Jul 23: The search operation to trace the IAF plane with 29 people on board which went missing over Bay of Bengal was today intensified with Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar undertaking a two-hour aerial survey as rescuers braved inclement weather and rough seas.
As many as 18 navy and coast guard ships including a submarine, and eight aircraft like P 81, C 130 and Dorniers were pressed into search operations to find the AN 32 transport aircraft which went missing yesterday soon after taking off from Tambaram air base for Port Blair.
Personally monitoring the operation, Parrikar reviewed the utilisation of assets and resources to find the plane even as he instructed that more resources would be diverted to the effort, if necessary, defence sources said. He was apprised of the difficult conditions under which operations were being carried out during the last 24 hours.
The sea is very rough and there is thick cloud cover in the area, sources said, adding he has directed all Commanders to be in touch with families and provide them information that may be required, they said. He was briefed by the Air Force and the Navy in Tambaram, near Chennai.
He then boarded a P-81 aircraft from Arakkonam Naval base to monitor search and rescue operations being conducted in the Bay of Bengal. The minister was briefed by Air Force and Naval personnel on board the P-81 as well.
He later left for Arakkonam from where he was flown to the area where the SAR was being undertaken jointly by the IAF, Navy and Coast Guard. The Defence Minister was accompanied by senior IAF officials including Chief of Air Staff Arup Raha, before being briefed at the Naval Air station at Arakkonam, located around 50 km from Chennai.
" Hon'ble RM (Raksha Mantri) @manoharparrikar being explained about the ops (operations) whilst in search area on P81," a Defence Ministry spokesperson said on twitter. The plane made the last radio contact at 0846 hours, 16 minutes after take off from Tambaram air base yesterday.
The 29 people on board the Air Force's workhorse for a long period included six crew members, two of them pilots and one navigator. Besides, there were 11 personnel from the IAF including a lady officer, two from the Army, one from the Coast Guard and 9 from the navy which included some from its armament depot.