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.

5 Comments

  1. Sharp Changes in Altitude and Course After Jet Lost Contact…..NY Times………Sure like to hear something from a Boeing rep. or John Nance.

    SEPANG, Malaysia — Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 experienced significant changes in altitude after it lost contact with ground control, and altered its course more than once as if still under the command of a pilot, American officials and others familiar with the investigation said Friday.

    Radar signals recorded by the Malaysian military appear to show the missing airliner climbing to 45,000 feet, above the approved altitude limit for a Boeing 777-200, soon after it disappeared from civilian radar and made a sharp turn to the west, according to a preliminary assessment by a person familiar with the data.Continue reading the main story Related Coverage

    Satellite Firm Says Its Data From Jet Could Offer LocationMARCH 14, 2014

    India Expands Its Efforts in Search for Missing JetMARCH 14, 2014

    U.S. Takes Back Seat in Malaysian Jet InquiryMARCH 13, 2014

    Use of Stolen Passports on Missing Jet Highlights Security FlawMARCH 10, 2014

    Q. and A. on the Disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370MARCH 11, 2014

    The radar track, which the Malaysian government has not released but says it has provided to the United States and China, then shows the plane descending unevenly to 23,000 feet, below normal cruising levels, as it approached the densely populated island of Penang, one of the country’s largest. There, the plane turned from a southwest-bound course, climbed to a higher altitude and flew northwest over the Strait of Malacca toward the Indian Ocean.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/15/world/asia/malaysia-military-radar.html?hp&_r=0

  2. Malaysia Airlines Flight 370: Hijacking Looks More Likely For Missing Plane…….John Nance…..

    While it’s possible a power failure could have turned the plane’s transponder off, the equipment uses so little power that it would have been one of the last things to shut down, says John Nance, a broadcast aviation analyst and veteran pilot. More likely, the transponder was turned off manually. And to add to the suspicion, the plane’s data reporting system was shut down 14 minutes before the transponder. This also suggests that the communication devices were turned off manually, because if there had been a crash or a fire, it’s most likely that both systems would have gone down at about the same time.

  3. As someone living in a developing country, I can tell you that reports of radar not working/switched off or complacent officers does not come as a surprise. There is not enough funding to maintain a constant state of alert. There may not be enough fighter jets to intercept a suspect aircraft, or there might not be enough pilots for the fighter jets, or it could simply come down to not having fuel for an intercept mission. The pilots and aircraft will be available for a joint training mission with foreign forces because of the prospects of military aid. However, the same facilities will not be available for a “real” mission.

  4. More time passes, more it seems to me (just as a “sensation”, i know) that somebody must have known the fate of MH370 in real-time, but for some reason this knowledge has not been released to the public yet. Just a question, i haven’t found yet the cargo manifest of MH370, do you know if it has been released? I’m looking some reason to select THAT specific flight… because i’m thinking of robbers, more than terrorists.

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