Isro's satellite imagery to help trace missing plane

Isro's satellite imagery to help trace missing plane

Isro's satellite imagery to help trace missing plane

The defence ministry on Sunday sought the Isro’s help to scour the Bay of Bengal to trace the IAF aircraft that has been missing since Friday.

As inclement weather restricted the movement of surveillance flights, defence officials opted for satellite imagery of the area.  “We are asking the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) to help with the satellite imagery of the area so that we get more information,” said Vice Admiral H C S Bisht, Chief of Eastern Naval Command, Visakhapatnam.

A source in the ministry said that an Isro satellite gave pointers to an area, which was extensively searched by rescue ships and aircraft. But it yielded no results. Another satellite will be used for surveillance on Monday.

A senior officer at the Tambaram air base in Chennai, from where the AN-32 took off for Port Blair on July 22 with 29 people on board, said the services of the National Remote Sensing Centre, Hyderabad, Isro's Mission Control Centre, Bengaluru, and Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services at Hyderabad were sought for augmenting the rescue operations.

“We have stepped up the search in the coastal areas of Cuddalore, Mamallapuram and Karaikal,” the official said.

As many as 19 coast guard and navy ships, including India's second largest warship INS Jalashwa, and 17 aircraft from the IAF, navy and coast guard are involved in the search operation. A Russian-origin Kilo class submarine has also joined the rescue fleet.

The depth of the ocean is also posing a problem for the search team. “The depth (of the ocean) is 3,500 metres. As the depth increases, challenges become more severe. This is something we are grappling with. We are augmenting the search efforts by increasing the number of ships, aircraft, helicopters and coast guard ships,” said Bisht, who accompanied Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and IAF chief Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha on Saturday when they undertook an aerial survey of the search area.  Several aircraft undertook sorties, but the rescue mission was hindered due to adverse weather conditions. A Dornier aircraft was also forced to return to the base.

The weather department's Sunday bulletin said the sea would be rough as strong off-shore winds from the south westerly direction, reaching 45-55 kmph, is likely off the coasts of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry. This is likely to impact the search operations adversely.

Families updated
The government is yet to release the names of the passengers even though service officials are in touch with the family members. “I have met the families of the passengers. We are updating them regularly about the situation,” said Bisht. 

Meanwhile, Wing Commander T J Singh from the Tambaram air base filed a complaint at the Selaiyur police station in Tamil Nadu into the missing AN-32 aircraft and 29 passengers.