As uncertainty reigns over the fate of a missing Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200ER aircraft, India's defence forces have stepped in to commit extensive assets to the search for the missing flight.
In a statement, New Delhi says it will contribute two Lockheed Martin C-130J aircraft, a single MiL Mi-17 V5 helicopter, and an unspecified number of Dornier 225 and Boeing P-8I maritime patrol aircraft.
Interestingly, it will commit the assets to the west of Great Nicobar Island, which sits far to the west of the current search area centered on the South China Sea and Malacca Strait. The statement gives no specific reason for searching in this area, but media reports quote Indian officials as saying that the search area was specifically request by Malaysian authorities.
"The area indicated by Malaysia lies in the South Andaman Sea and is West of Great Nicobar Island."
The C-130Js and P-8s are among the newest types in the Indian fleet. India’s Do 228’s, which are produced locally by Hindustan Aeronautics, are the mainstay of its coast guard’s patrol capability.
The contribution of search assets comes six days after flight MH370 disappeared with 239 passengers and crew while operating a Kuala Lumpur-Beijing service.
“With a request for help from the Government of Malaysia in tracing the missing Malaysian Airlines aircraft, the focus of the search has shifted westward towards Andaman Sea,” the government says. “A formal request in this regard was received from Indian High Commissioner in Kuala Lumpur. With the search expanded to cover an area stretching from South China Sea to Andaman Sea, the Indian Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard have been pressed into service for the search of the missing aircraft.”
There is considerable confusion on whether Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) data was transmitted by the aircraft after contact was lost at about 01:30 local time on Saturday 8 March.
Wall Street Journal reports quoting unnamed US officials have maintained that ACARS data was reported for several more hours, while Malaysian authorities say no ACARS data was received after 01:07 on the morning of 8 March, 23 minutes before the aircraft disappeared.