TechSunken mystery solved: Lost Indian An-32 cargo plane found deep in Bay of Bengal

Sunken mystery solved: Lost Indian An‑32 cargo plane found deep in Bay of Bengal

An-32 of the Indian Air Force
An-32 of the Indian Air Force
Images source: © Wikipedia

11:27 AM EST, January 26, 2024

The aviation disaster took place on July 22, 2016. The aircraft took off from Tambaram Air Force Station in Chennai, with the planned destination being the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Shortly after takeoff, while flying over the Bay of Bengal, the aircraft vanished from radar screens. For years, the fate of the plane and the 29 people on board remained a mystery. It was presumed that the plane had crashed into the sea, but this hypothesis could not be confirmed for several years.

Wreckage of the Indian An-32 transport aircraft found

The mystery was finally resolved in January 2024, quite unexpectedly. While performing unrelated tasks, the autonomous underwater Ocean Mineral Explorer 6000, owned by a particular company, happened upon the shipwreck at a depth of around 2.1 miles, approximately 193 miles off the Indian coast.

Upon discovering the wreckage, the company alerted the authorities. By deploying advanced exploration equipment, The Indian Ministry of Defense confirmed that the found wreckage was indeed the remains of the disappeared An-32. Due to the immense depth of the wreckage, autonomous underwater vehicles were utilized in the investigation. Highly sophisticated technologies such as multibeam sonar and synthetic aperture sonar were also used to generate high-resolution images.

"The search images were scrutinised and found to be conforming with an An-32 aircraft. This discovery at the probable crash site, with no other recorded history of any other missing aircraft report in the same area, points to the debris as possibly belonging to the crashed IAF An-32 (K-2743)," reported the official statement.

The An-32 is a transport aircraft based on the An-26 model. Designed to better withstand harsh atmospheric conditions, it measures over 26 feet high with a wingspan exceeding 95 feet. This twin-engine machine can reach speeds of over 311mph and ascend to heights over 29,528 feet. The An-32 can accommodate up to 50 passengers.

The 2016 search operation for the An-32 was the most extensive of its kind in Indian history, involving over a dozen ships, six aircraft, and even a submarine. Among the units engaged were the P-8I Neptune, the Indian version of the American patrol aircraft Boeing P-8 Poseidon. Delhi authorities are currently in the process of replacing their old Soviet-built IL-38SDs with these new units.

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