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India likely to seek Israel help to find Army pilots missing after Ranjit Sagar Dam chopper crash

Two Army pilots have been missing since an Army helicopter crashed into the Ranjit Sagar Dam reservoir on 3 August.

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New Delhi: A week after search operations for two Army pilots, who went missing after a helicopter crashed into the Ranjit Sagar Dam reservoir, yielded no results, India is likely to seek help from Israel for specialised equipment, ThePrint has learnt.

The helicopter of the pilots crashed into the reservoir in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kathua district on 3 August and the two have been missing ever since. Search operations by the Army and the Navy have been underway since the day of the crash.

According to sources in the defence and security establishment, the authorities concerned will approach Israel for special equipment that can operate underwater at a much lower depth than Indian systems.

While there are systems with India which can operate at much deeper levels, they are larger in size and on board naval ships. So, bringing them to a reservoir is not possible, they added.

Sources explained that there are only particular depths to which divers can go. To go beyond that one needs compression chambers or specialised vessels.

The international help is being coordinated by the Army headquarters.

The development comes as the brother of one of the missing pilots, Neel Joshi, took to Twitter Monday to express his anguish.

“We have lost all hope at this point. The anticipation, the wait and day after day of futile search by the Navy and the Army is a torture for our mother who has to wait everyday to hear any news,” tweeted Joshi.

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Multi-beam sonars, underwater manipulators being used 

Meanwhile, a statement issued by the Western Army Command late Monday noted that military authorities are “leaving no stone unturned to search for the helicopter” and the pilots, adding that “international assistance is also being sought”.

The statement also noted that the expansive reservoir measures 25-km in length, 8-km in width and is more than 500 feet deep.

The Western Command also responded to Joshi’s tweet and said that the Army has been coordinating the search and rescue efforts of Indian Navy (two Officers, fpur Junior Commissioned Officers and 24 other ranks) and Indian Army Special Forces divers (two officers, one Junior Commissioned Officer and 24 other ranks).

It noted that multi-beam sonars, side scanners, remotely operated vehicles and underwater manipulators have also been flown in from Chandigarh, Delhi, Mumbai and Kochi.

The Command explained that the deep underwater operation is especially challenging due to the near-zero visibility below 50 meters due to the colloidal nature of water in this season, which adversely impacts accuracy of sonars and other sensors.

“Experts, specialised equipment and divers are being continuously flown in and international assistance is also being sought,” it said.

A small area measuring 60 x 60 metre has been localised and special sonar equipment, flown in from Kochi, has also been used to enable search operations to enter their final phase, according to the Command.

(Edited by Rachel John)

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