Place of Birth: Pune, MH
Service: Air Force
Last Rank: Flight Lieutenant
Unit: 33 Sqn AF
Date Of Martyrdom : Jul 22, 2016
Flight Lieutenant Kunal Barpatte was born in Nigadi in Pimpri-Chinchwad, District of Pune, Maharashtra. His father Shri Rajendra Barpatte, served as a scientist in Central Institute of Road Transport and his mother, Smt Vidya Barpatte is a homemaker.
Flt Lt Barpatte did his B.Sc in Electronics from Fergusson College at Pune. As a child, Flt Lt Barpatte was fascinated by the Air Force and always wanted to be an Air Warrior. And in pursuit of his dream, he cleared Combined Defence Services Exam and joined the Air Force Academy, Dindigul, Hyderabad, where he was trained to be a navigator. After completion of the training, Flt Lt Barpatte served with various transport aircraft squadrons, first at Air Force base at Jorhat in Assam and then in Sulur Air Force base near Coimbatore.
IAF AN-32 Aircraft sortie: 22 July 2016
On 22 July 2016, IAF 33 Squadron was tasked to carry men and material from Chennai to the Air Force station at Port Blair in The Andaman and Nicobar Islands. An upgraded AN-32, a twin-engine turboprop transport aircraft, belonging to 33 Squadron, was pressed in the service for the assigned task. The aircraft, with 29 people on board, including six crew members, 11 Indian Air Force personnel; two Indian Army soldiers; one each from the Indian Navy and Indian Coast Guard; and eight defense civilians working with Naval Armament Depot (NAD) and the material load, took off from Tambaram Air Force Station in Chennai at 8.30 am and was expected to land at Port Blair in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands at 11.30 am. Flight Lieutenant Kunal Barpatte was Flight Navigator in this sortie.
At 9.12 a.m. i.e. around 42 minutes after takeoff and about 151 nautical miles east of Chennai, the aircraft lost contact with the ground radar and went missing. This disappearance kicked off India’s biggest search operation for a missing plane on the sea. Despite massive search operation conducted jointly by the Navy, Indian Air Force and the Coast Guards, the aircraft and the passengers on board could not be traced. The aircraft was not fitted with an underwater locator beacon, which made the search operations very difficult. Even scanning of data from Indian satellites failed to locate the missing aircraft. On 15 September 2016, the search and rescue mission was called off and all 29 people on board were presumed dead.
Flight Lieutenant Kunal Barpatte was a dedicated soldier with deep desire to serve the nation, however, his life was cut short and a committed soldier was lost in the line of duty.