A transport plane of the Indian Air Force with 29 people on board went missing while flying from Chennai to Port Blair on Friday, the military said.
The Russian-made AN-32 aircraft took off at 8.30am from Tambaram in Chennai and the last contact with it was made 16 minutes later. The aircraft can fly for up to four hours without refuelling.
The Coast Guard and IAF have launched operations to find the aircraft, which had six crew members on board.
It was carrying service personnel to the strategic islands near the Malacca Straits, where India has a military base.
Navy officials said one P-8I surveillance aircraft, one Dornier and four ships have been deployed in the search and rescue operation and more assets are being dispatched.
Defence sources said the search operation was being carried out 200 nautical miles from east of Chennai.
The Antonov-32 is a Russian-origin military transport aircraft that has been in service with the IAF since 1984. The AN-32’s design is based on the older AN-26, which first flew in 1969. About 250 AN-32s are in service around the world.
The IAF was the first foreign customer to buy the AN-32 because of the strong defence relations between India and the erstwhile Soviet Union. India has, over the years, bought 125 of the turboprop military transport aircraft, and a little more than 105 are still in service.
India’s AN-32 fleet is currently being upgraded and modernised with advanced avionics, communications systems, landing aids, new oxygen systems and better seats.
A contract was signed with Ukraine’s state-owned arms trading agency to refurbish India’s An-32s by 2017, but the project has run into problems because of the conflict in that country.
The conflict in Ukraine also affected the supply of spares that were to be used to upgrade the aircraft in India.