CHENNAI, India, July 23 (UPI) -- India Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar joined an armed forces operation in Chennai as the search by air and land for the missing military transport plane with 29 people aboard intensified.
Parrikar was briefed on the operation by the country's navy, air force and coast guard and monitored the search and rescue operations being conducted in the Bay of Bengal from onboard a P-81 aircraft which took off from Arakkonam Naval.
"Visited Arakkonam today to monitor search ops for IAF AN 32. Max resources in use by IAF, Navy, Coast Guard in difficult weather conditions," Parrikar tweeted.
The missing aircraft, which departed from Tambaram 8:30 a.m. Friday for a three-hour flight to Port Blair, lost contact 16 minutes after takeoff.
According to NDTV, the plane may have plunged rapidly from an altitude of 23,000 feet.
The 29 passengers on the plane included six crew members, eight civilians, 11 air force personnel, two army soldiers, one navy soldier and a coast guard member.
The Navy has sent a submarine, five surveillance aircraft including a Dornier and at least 13 ships to search for the missing ship and its personnel.
The submarine is expected to track underwater signals from the plane's beacon locator, which activates in the event of a crash.
"All efforts are being made to trace the missing plane and the service personnel on board," Parrikar said.