India to search outer extremity of missing airliner’s flight range - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Friday 14 March 2014

India to search outer extremity of missing airliner’s flight range

Graphic courtesy The New York Times. Did the Malaysian airliner run out of fuel and crash short of India, in the Bay of Bengal?

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 15th Mar 14

India’s role in the search for missing Malaysian Airlines Flight MH 370 is growing, with the search expanding across the Bay of Bengal, close to the Chennai coast.

As hope fades, Malaysia is confronting the awful possibility that the airliner might have flown towards India until it ran out of fuel and plunged into the sea. The area that the Indian Navy has been asked to scan tomorrow is the extremity of the search bubble, 2,500 kilometres from Kuala Lumpur. Since Flight MH370 was carrying fuel enough for just 2,500 kilometres, it would have run dry in the area that India will search tomorrow --- a narrow band of sea 900 kilometres west of Port Blair, i.e. about 500 kilometres east of Chennai and Visakhapatnam.

Aircraft and ships from the Andaman & Nicobar Command that searched the South Andaman Sea all of Friday will be joined on Saturday by those of the Visakhapatnam-based Eastern Naval Command.

On Friday, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) revealed “The Malaysian authorities have also requested for a search in the Bay of Bengal, expanse of which is approx. 9000 sq km (15 km x 600 Km). This area is approx. 900 km due West of Port Blair. Search in this area would be undertaken by the resources of Eastern Naval Command.”

Naval sources tell Business Standard that two small Dornier aircraft will conduct this search on Saturday morning. In case nothing is found the larger, faster, P-8I aircraft will join the search from Port Blair and Arakonam naval bases.

The navy says two of its warships; INS Saryu and INS Kumbhir, combed the South Andaman Sea on Friday. In the afternoon, INS Kumbhir was replaced by helicopter-carrying INS Kesari, which can scan larger areas.  Simultaneously, two Coast Guard vessels are searching close to the coastline.

Malaysian authorities in Kuala Lumpur are allocating search areas to the ten-odd countries that are assisting it. The Indian Navy is coordinating assistance from its Maritime Operations Centre (MOC) in New Delhi, while the Joint Operations Room at the Andaman & Nicobar Command in Port Blair is monitoring the progress of the search, says the navy.

Flight MH370, a Boeing 777 airliner, took off from Kuala Lumpur soon after midnight on Saturday, heading north on a six-hour flight to Beijing. Forty minutes into its flight, at about 1.30 a.m., it lost communication with air traffic control. While there is no certainty which direction it went thereafter,
Malaysian military radar picked up an unidentified aircraft heading westwards towards the Indian Ocean. Since then, the search has expanded towards the Andaman & Nicobar Islands.


  1. How come the Andaman and Nicobar Command have not made any info available about any aircraft passing within range of the base territories? Don't they have a radar facility set up there to monitor all air and sea movement?

    Ajai, it's always a pleasure.

  2. Also I forgot to mention. Most major news outlets are stating that the jet had enough fuel to fly into Central Asia or deep into the Southern Indian Ocean. Might be useful to add that in case people question what you wrote from what other news outlets are saying.

  3. Must be heading towards Hindustan shipyard in Visakhapatnam where India's Nuclear sub is being built?
    looks weird but cant rule out!!!!

  4. To get to Beijing, the flight would have had enough fuel for 2,700 nm (4,350 km) plus reserves at the outset. Turning back towards Northern Malaysia and erratic changes of altitude would have taken some range off, but more than 2,500 km still seems possible.

  5. Sir can you post another topic on lessons learnt from the Malaysian Airlines episode. Specially from strategic point of view. It seems that China seized this opportunity to demonstrate its military prowess to all the neighbours. Be it deployment of its satellites or aircraft or ships it was not hesitant at all. How come Indian radars failed in Andamans? China cleverly delivered the message subtly to the US don't mess with me.


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