Nine months after a combat plane – MIG 29 – crashed in the treacherous mountains of the Lahual Valley, Indian Air Force and the Army will launch a joint operation to salvage the missing pilot and the flight data recorder.
Rise in temperature triggering snow melt in the mountains have revived hopes of locating the wreckage of the plane that reportedly exploded in air during nocturnal combat exercise.
Two planes had left Adampur air base in Jalandhar on October 18, last year. While one came back safely, the other plane went missing.
Due to heavy snow and hostile weather the air force had called off the operation last November. Operation to retrieve plane wreckage will resume from July 20.
“Indian Air Force has sent a communiqué to resume the search operation shortly,” deputy commissioner Lahual and Spiti Shyam Singh Guleria confirmed to Hindustan Times.
As many as 50 air force and army personnel’s from are expected to participate on the search operations.
“Team from air force station will arrive here shortly,” says Guleria, while adding that district administration is also sending a team of trekkers from Atal Bihari Vajpayee Institute of Mountaineering to recce the area that was earlier marked by the air force.
Family of the missing pilot also met the deputy commissioner and visited the nearby villages to the find any trace of the 32-year-old squadron leader DS Tomar.
After the plane went missing, the Indian Air Force had launched a salvage operation arguably one of the biggest in the country till date to locate it.
Apart from locals, the air force had requisitioned elite mountaineers from Darjeeling.
Indian Air Force had called in mountaineers from army’s High Altitude Warfare School (HAWS) to supplement ground search initiated on peaks between Chokang village and Gangsten glacier, where the local villagers heard the explosion.
Equipped with sophisticated search equipment to trace the debris of the plane buried under snow engineers from 17 Engineering Regiment has conducted ground search along with Three Ladakh Scout Battalion and One Battalion from Jammu and Kashmir Rifles.
Army units involved in the search operations had also pressed into service sniffer dogs to locate the missing pilot.
Last year, the family of the missing pilot announced a reward of Rs. 50,000 for the locals for any vital information. This time they hope to find him.
Recently the family members of Tomar were in district headquarters Keylong and visted Miarh valley and even met villagers of Naingarh located at an altitude of 13,000feet.
They also visited remote Darcha in hope that they could get some clue about the pilot.
“Kins of missing pilot met the villagers here few days back and they would return back when the air force resumes operations,” a police official at Keylong said.
District administration had distributed photographs and posters giving details about the missing pilot.
The posters are being distributed to trekkers climbing the peaks and the local shepherds who along with flocks move to higher altitudes during summers.
The IAF had last year managed to locate some parts of the crashed aircraft with the help of the army and local villagers but the main wreckage was not found.
It had deployed its unmanned aerial vehicles and fighter aircraft such as the SU-30MKI and Jaguars to locate the aircraft and has flown close to 160 sorties for the search.