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Malaysia lets slip chance to intercept MH370
Published:  Mar 17, 2014 4:58 AM
Updated: 7:21 AM

MH370 When any unidentified aircraft flies over the country, the natural reaction is to scramble jets to intercept the possible threat. However, this was not the case for Malaysia.

In fact, Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 flew westwards after making a turn back over the Gulf of Thailand, undetected by the military, across Peninsular Malaysia and the country’s second largest city in Penang, according to a report by the New York Times .

“Inside a Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) control room on the country’s west coast, where American-made F-18s and F-5 fighters stood at a high level of readiness for emergencies exactly like the one unfolding in the early morning of March 8, a four-person air defence radar crew did nothing about the unauthorised flight,” the report says.

This failure was not only a breach in air space security, which would make Malaysia vulnerable to attacks, but it also meant the country lost a precious opportunity to intercept Flight MH370 which had then flown into the vast unknown.

“If the aircraft ended up in the southern Indian Ocean, as some aviation experts now suggest, then floating debris could have subsequently drifted hundreds of kilometres, making it extremely hard to figure out where the cockpit voice and data recorders sank,” it said.

Not only did the team at the RMAF base in Butterworth not notice or failed to report a blip on the defensive and air traffic radar, the crew at two radar installations at Kota Baru also failed to report the apparent intrusion.

The report said the military only became aware of contact on their own radar after reviewing the recordings several hours after Flight MH370 vanished from civilian radar at 1.21am on March 8, over the Gulf of Thailand.

‘Days of searching in the wrong place’

RMAF chief Rodzali Daud only acknowledged the radar data on the fifth day, after a fruitless search for MH370 in the South China Sea, justifying that the military needed time to verify whether the blip was in fact from MH370.

Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak finally announced a suspension of the search in the South China Sea last Saturday, eight days after a multi-national search operation involving 14 countries in the wrong direction.

As of yesterday, the search largely remained on a pause, with Malaysia attempting to reorganise the operation to now focus attention on two corridors, one from the borders of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan to the northern Thai border and the second from Indonesia to the south of the Indian Ocean.

The new locations were established based on military radar data and satellite pings which MH370 had automatically sent despite its communication systems being mysteriously turned off, on purpose.

As the loss of MH370 enters the 10th day today, the new search area includes vast tracks of lands across 11 countries and remote parts of the Indian Ocean.