The Royal Malaysian Navy corvette KD Terengganu and a U.S. Navy MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopter conduct a coordinated air and sea search for a missing Malaysian Airlines jet in the Gulf of Thailand on March 13. Based on new information, the Navy is shifting assets to the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean. (OS1 Claudia Franco/Navy via AP)
In the week-old search for the Malaysian Airlines passenger jet that mysteriously disappeared, the U.S. Navy is shifting its search westward and bringing in one of its newest surveillance aircraft to help scan the Indian Ocean.
The Navy is moving the destroyer Kidd toward the Bay of Bengal, significantly outside the planned flight path for the aircraft that was carrying 239 passengers on a flight from Malaysia to Beijing before it disappeared on March 8.
The Navy is also bringing in a P-8A Poseidon, an anti-submarine aircraft that carries a crew of nine sailors along with some of the U.S. military’s most advanced intelligence and reconnaissance sensors, Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren said Friday.
The P-8A Poseidon, out of Kadena Air Base, Japan, will be flying over the “western search area” in the Indian Ocean, Warren said.
New reports suggest the aircraft was deliberately flown off course onto flight paths typically used for flights heading to the Middle East and Europe. Evidence suggests its engines continued to operate for several hours after its transponders were disabled, raising the possibility that it was hijacked, according to a Reuters report Friday.
U.S. military officials declined to discuss the intelligence that led to the shift in the search area, which initially focused on the aircraft’s planned flight path over the Gulf of Thailand and the South China Sea.
Warren did say that the shift was requested by the Malaysian government.
The P-8A Poseidon joined the Navy fleet last year and will replace the P-3 Orion.
The U.S. Navy assets are among the dozens of ships and aircraft from 13 counties that are assisting in the search.