“Norwegian military ground personnel found the plane. Wreckage from the main body of the plane has been found. Police are now taking over the investigation,” Swedish rescue services spokesman Tobias Mikander told Norwegian newspaper VG.
None of the five Norwegian officers on board the plane have yet been found and the Norwegian defence minister Espen Berth Eide was downbeat over the chances of any survivors being located.
“Unfortunately it is a very serious accident. The aircraft has hit the western face of Kebnekaise and pieces of wreckage are lying across an extended area,” he said at a press conference on Saturday.
Around 100 people are participating in the search for the missing soldiers at the top of Mount Kebnekaise, located some 150 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle, police said.
Wreckage has been found on the east and west sides of the Kebnekaise Massive at an altitude of more than 1,500 metres.
Heavy overnight snowfall was slowing down the search operation due to the heightened avalanche risk, police spokesman Håkan Alselind told a press conference at around 10am.
Search teams still face considerable risks in the search for survivors, as four avalanches took place in the area overnight.
On Friday evening, rescue teams found pieces of wreckage smelling of aircraft fuel.
The aircraft went missing on Thursday afternoon when it was on its way from Evenes in northern Norway to Kiruna in the far north of Sweden.
At the time, the Hercules was participating in the Cold Response military training exercise taking place over northern Norway which was scheduled to run from March 12th to March 21st and included 16,000 soldiers from 15 countries.
“There was a crew of four on board as well as an extra officer. Their mission was to fly from Evenes to Kiruna to pick up material and personnel and fly back to Norway,” Harald Sunde, head of the Norwegian Armed Forces told Norwegian news agency NTB.
He added that the officers on board the Hercules aircraft were among the “most experienced” in the Norwegian military and that there were no clues regarding what may have happened.
“We have nothing that points us in any particular direction. This is a very robust and new aircraft, one of the best there is. It’s been hard to have bad luck with this type of aircraft,” said Sunde.
The missing aircraft is a C-130 J “Super” Hercules transport plane manufactured by Lockheed Martin in the United States.
The plane is one of four C-130 Js ordered by the Norwegian air force in 2007, the first of which was delivered in November 2008.