Can you believe neither Malaysian nor Thai radars saw the Malaysia Airlines MH370 crashing?

Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 might have flown for some time (from 2 to 5 hours, depending on the reports and sources) before disappearing. Provided this is true, why did nobody see a possible “renegade” plane wandering from South China Sea to the Indian Ocean?

The end of the Boeing 777-200 9M-MRO has been a mystery immediately after the news that it had disappeared while enroute from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing spread.

We have drawn several theories about the fate of MH370 since the first (and for the moment only) confirmed details of the flight (those about the last ADS-B signals collected by the FR24.com stations) were released.

Regardless of their chances to depict the final moments of the Malaysia Airlines flight, the various scenarios (hijacking, suicide, terrorist attack, bomb, emergency, etc.) remain valid until the wreckage or at least some debris are found (by the way, those shown in Chinese satellite images did not belong to the doomed plane).

Anyway, in the last few hours, it seems that SAR (Search And Rescue) forces are no-longer looking for any sign of the B777 somewhere to the northeast of Malaysia, where it was last seen by (civil) radars, but on the other side of the peninsula, in the Strait of Malacca.

Indeed, based on some of the latest (once again) unconfirmed reports, the aircraft may have flown some hours westbound before crashing somewhere between Malaysia, the Andaman and the Indian Ocean.

Provided this is true, the question is: why did nobody see and try to intercept it?

Here’s the weird thing: a civilian plane has disappeared. It’s no longer visible on radars, does not respond to radio calls. Almost vanished.

The first thing that comes to my mind is the 9-11 scenario. Sept. 11 has taught the world air forces that the new threat is that of “renegade planes”.

Renegade planes are aircraft, possibly civil wide bodies, hijacked and used for suicide attacks. Since 2001, the majority of the air arms around the world have armed aircraft ready to intercept and if needed shoot down renegade planes (unless they are out of business hours….)

That said it’s extremely difficult to believe that no Malaysian military radar saw anything, especially since, amid the contradictory statements, the country’s civil and military authorities have said that the plane may have turned back and reached the Strait of Malacca, where even U.S. Navy forces are amassing to look for the missing plane.

In order to reach the other side of the peninsula, the MH370 would have to fly over mainland Malaysia or Thailand, most probably not too far from coastal radars and interceptor bases.

Ok, it might have been quite low, with no transponder code etc, but military radars are designed and built to work in a different way from civilian ones: they have to look for non-cooperative targets (you can’t expect an enemy plane to attack you with the transponder switched on for you to see it in advance!)

So, unless Royal Thai Air Force and/or Royal Malaysian Air Force are completely unprepared to deal with renegade planes and enemy bombers (because untrained? poorly equipped?), or the story that the civil Boeing 777 overflew mainland Malaysia or Thailand is at least odd.

I’m not conspiracy theories fan but, if the “cross country” is confirmed, we have to list the shot down by an interceptor plane among all the possible root causes of the end of MH370.

All the articles about MH370 can be read here (scroll down).

Top image credit: Ottawa Citizen

 

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About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a freelance journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.

12 Comments

  1. Most interesting are the reports the Malaysian military did follow the plane for some time, but the government denying it. China publishes some pictures or a possible crash site, the Malaysian government rejects it. There are reports the engines reported to Rolls Royce for some time, the government denies it also. The only thing I see from Malaysia are denials. There is a strange mix of facts and fiction here.

    • If you think 9/11 there was a total confusion also in that date with an incredible number of false reports and alarms and the Us Air Force useless and completely unable to intervene/intercept.

    • No it sounds more like the Chinese government is putting out a bunch of BS including “seismic activity” near the plane’s last contact point AND the false debris. The Chinese authorities gave green light or NOT to these lies? Are they trying to mislead or are they trying to find the answer? I can’t believe you don’t see these two things as clues to Chinese deception…

  2. Unfortunately, I can kind of believe that Thai and Malay air defense forces are relatively incompetent, at least in that area (and even in general). There’s intermittent muslim insurgency there but always on the ground and it is heavily forested.

  3. Whatever happened to the 777-200 had to be with the complicity of the Malaysian gov’t. Otherwise, their air defense system is literal male bovine excrement. The current protocols for aircraft off the norm is intercept, identify, contact, direct to an airport, or, failing the aforementioned, shoot down. The Malaysians are trying to tell us that they ignored the 777-200 changing course, going incommunicado, shutting down both transponders, without considering a 9-11 scenario? The MAF has Su27s and MiG29s, both very capable fighters in the interceptor role, whose pilots completed an exercise with the U.S. Navy not too long ago regarding terrorism threats.
    When the first reports surfaced of the turn around, the engines still trying to report data, the only conclusion was that the airplane was headed someplace else incognito so to speak. That raises the issue of hijacking, or a conspiracy to take the airplane and passengers to an undisclosed location for whatever reason. No matter what, the end result bodes ill for the passengers.
    Then, there are the various naval vessels of many countries operating in that part of the world due to piracy patrols or whatever that have air defense capability that would track the bogey as a matter of course. Too many ships, too many men, too many opportunities to see wreckage coming down, too many other aircraft making the likelihood of a catastrophic structural failure unlikely.
    The Malaysian military knows more than they are saying, the Malaysian gov’t knows more than it is saying, and there are others who probably know, but do not wish to disclose capabilities.
    It is possible the crew turned the aircraft around, as it has been reported that the aircraft allegedly ascended to 49K ft in a matter of a few minutes, then descended and altered course almost 180 deg with the transponders going off the air during the course of these events. That should have raised red flags with the Malaysians.
    The crew could have been incapacitated and unconscious for the rest of the flight in the event of a cabin depressurization . . . but, the transponders were turned off manually as were other reporting systems. Apparently, the engine reporting system was independent of the aircraft’s IT network.
    When this one get figured out, the story will make a great read.

    • “Otherwise, their air defense system is literal male bovine excrement.”

      My guess would be the $$$$ that funds air defense radar ended up building a beautiful mansion with a garage full of Rolls Royces for somebody somewhere – while broken down, non functioning “radar” stations sit unattended.

      • You are probably right. I forgot about the baksheesh/mordida/bite factor . . .

      • Short memory Lawrence…

        Do not forget that in 9/11 Us Air Force was off guard, confused, so late to be useless unable to manage the emergency and going after a huge amount of false blips, alarms and reports. The US air defense felt like your “male bovine excrement” to the level of having the only option to give up and ground everybody (Beside Bin Laden family members private jet…).

        This is the typical lack of training, coordination between radar centers and inexistent contingency plan in case if an emergency that has never occurred in your airspace.

        • You have to be living in an alternate reality to think planes that were hijacked and crashed within minutes – are even remotely similar to a plane turning off its transponders, flying for 7 hours in the opposite direction, and nobody even noticing or being able to tell where it went.

          Get a clue.

        • On 9/11 the USAF, myself included along with the rest of US Strategic Command, was engaged in a Global Guardian Exercise, which happens about 3 or 4 times a year. “Lack of Training”? Far from it. STRATCOM is all about “training”. The problem of “confusion” on 9/11 was not one of incompetence or complacency. The problem was too much information.
          Global Guardian is basically war gaming World War III using nukes. When hostile wide-bodied aircraft started getting reported, the controllers were in day 2 or 3 of a 5-day war game involving simulated hostile wide-bodied aircraft in the form of /cough/Russian/cough bombers. Of course there would be “a huge amount of false blips, alarms and reports,” that’s part of the exercise!
          US “Air Defense” didn’t exist then as it did during the Cold War and in the years following that fateful day. The old Aerospace Defense Command was long gone and the fighter interceptor assets of the entire Continental US was down to not Nine but TWO Air National Guard units with that mission. Even if communications and coordination had been perfect at the time, you’d still be left with maybe eight F-16s, four to the West and four to the East, to fly intercepts for the entire lower 48 states.

  4. I’m not so sure about Thailand’s ADZ, but if MH370 did fly across peninsula Malaysia on a route that’s almost in line with the last ADS-B update in the South China Sea and the possible radar sighting in the Straits of Malacca, it would have flown near two major RMAF bases, Gong Kedak near Kota Bahru on the East Coast, and Butterworth near Georgetown on the West coast. Butterworth is also where the Five Power Defense Arrangements (Malaysia, Singapore, UK, Australia and New Zealand) have an IADS headquartered!

    Not to mention that the Straits of Malacca is a major commercial air corridor and supposedly heavily monitored!

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