An Indian Air Force plane carrying 29 people went missing Friday morning after it took off for Port Blair.
The aircraft, which had six crew members and eight civilians or family members, left the Tambaram air base near Chennai at 8.30 am for Port Blair, the capital of the Andaman and Nicobar chain of islands.
According to an officer, the Indian Air Force Plane which should have landed around 11.45 am may have plunged from an altitude of 23,000 feet.
An IAF source told AFP the radar data from the missing aircraft showed it making a sharp left turn before rapidly losing altitude.
With concern mounting hours after its disappearance, five surveillance aircraft and 13 navy and coastguard ships have launched a search for the aircraft. A submarine has also been diverted to the area.
The plane was a courier flight taking mostly service personnel to the strategic islands near the Malacca Straits, where India has a military base.
The last call from the aircraft was around 16 minutes after take-off, when the pilot reported that “everything is normal.”
Retired Air Marshal Anil Chopra said searching for an aircraft in an ocean was complex and that knowledge of the last known position of the plane would be critical for any breakthrough.
“Unfortunately the radar cover in Indian east coast does not cover full area… As time elapses uncertainty and risk increases.”
The AN-32, equipped with navigational aids, are the IAF’s workhorse aircraft and capable of flying for up to four hours without refuelling.
The Indian Air Force, which relies heavily on Russian-made equipment and has around 100 AN-32s in its fleet, has been blighted by a poor safety record.
In one of the worst disasters involving an AN-32 in India, 20 people on board died while three civilians were burnt to death when the plane crashed near a New Delhi airport in 1999.
And in 2013, all 20 people on board a military helicopter were killed when it crashed in northern India.
The Indian air force has gradually been getting rid of some of its older planes, some of which date back to the 1960s.