Aircraft lost radio, radar contact after take-off.
New Delhi: A two-seater Sukhoi-30 MKI aircraft of the Indian Air Force has been reported missing on Tuesday, about half-an-hour after taking off from the Salonibari airbase in Assam’s Tezpur.
On a routine training mission as part of a two aircraft formation, the aircraft lost radar and radio contact with the controlling station at around 11:10 am. The last reported position was 60 km northwest of Tezpur. The other Sukhoi aircraft retuned safely to base.
Sources told this newspaper that the search and rescue (SAR) mission carried out by various assets, including two helicopters operating from Tezpur, have been called off for Tuesday and will resume on Wednesday. “The foliage is very dense and the SAR equipment is not picking up anything. So the SAR mission has been called off for the night and will start early morning”. The IAF has not declared a crash yet.
The flight plan of the aircraft with two pilots is learnt to have been towards Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh. “If at all it had suffered a crash in the plain areas of Assam, it would have been very easily detected,” the sources added. China claims Arunachal Pradesh as its own which it calls South Tibet. The Buddhist Tawang monastery occupies centrality in the Chinese claim over the hilly northeastern state.
The Sukhoi SU-30 is a frontline aircraft of the IAF. Indian has about 230 operational Su-30 fighters, although just half of that strength is available for operational flights due to numerous issues at any given point of time.
The Su-30 flies at about 2,100 kmph, has a range of 3,000 km and a capability to be airborne for more than 3.5 hours. A multirole fighter of Russian origin, the plane is capable of carrying a variety of weapons, including medium-range air-to-air missiles. It can attain a maximum speed of over 2,000 km per hour.
Till date, seven Sukhoi 30 MKIs have crashed resulting in a loss of about Rs 2,350 crore. The last crash was on March 15 in Rajasthan.