India expands search for missing aircraft

Malaysia wants another 9,000 sq km covered

India expands search for missing aircraft

The search for Malaysian Airlines flight MH 370 expanded to cover an additional 9,000 sq km in the Bay of Bengal on Friday, where many more naval warships and aircraft will look for any sign of the aircraft that has remained untraceable since last weekend.

Two more Indian ships—ICGS Sagar and Bhikaji Cama—have joined India’s “Operation Searchlight”, and more platforms will be roped in later with the operation's expansion, said officials. Search efforts will include surveillance aircraft flying over hundreds of uninhabited islands in Andaman and Nicobar.

As the hunt for the aircraft with 239 people on board remained futile on the seventh day, Malaysian authorities requested India to also search an approximate 9,000 sq km (15 km X 600 km) area in the Bay of Bengal, 900 km west of Port Blair. The search will be undertaken by the Eastern Naval Command.

The exploration would be in addition to the operations going on in southern Andaman sea since Friday morning. INS Saryu and INS Kumbhir combed the designated areas.
On Friday afternoon, INS Kesari, which has a helicopter on board, replaced INS Kumbhir in the mission.

Malaysian ship KD Selangor is the only other naval ship present in the southern Andaman sea.

The Coast Guard vessels and Dornier aircraft are searching the coastline from the sea as well as air.

The Navy's P8I surveillance aircraft did sorties on Friday and the Indian Air Force's C-130J at Port Blair, from where commander-in chief of the Andaman and Nicobar command Air Marshal P K Roy is marshaling resources under his command.

“The search expansion was not unidirectional. It happened in all the directions taking into account how much fuel the aircraft carried and how long it may have been strayed from its predetermined path,” explained a Navy officer.

ICGS Sagar, for instance, was in Bandar Seri Begawan in Brunei, from where it has been called back.

The ship would take about a week to reach the Andaman sea, but will keep watch en route as its entire route is part of the search area.

Earth observation satellites of the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) are not yet involved in the mission because the agency has not received any directive to join the search. Isro operates about 10 remote sensing satellites.

Indian officials did not confirm to Deccan Herald if New Delhi received any request from Kuala Lumpur to share raw radar data from the Andaman islands with the investigation agencies. The data could confirm if the missing aircraft were seen by the Air Force and Navy radars on the Andaman islands. The radars have a range of 150-250 km.

Malaysia may make such a request to India, Thailand and Indonesia to find out if the aircraft flew in any other directions, suggest reports.

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