United States officials have an "indication" the missing flight MH370 may have crashed in the Indian Ocean and is moving the USS Kidd to the area to begin searching, ABC News reported early today.
It will take another 24 hours to move the ship into position in the vast sea on the west coast of the Malay peninsula, a senior Pentagon official told the US television station.
"We have an indication the plane went down in the Indian Ocean," the senior official was quoted as saying about the search for the lost Malaysia Airlines (MAS) passenger jet, which disappeared last Saturday.
The Pentagon official said the US was moving the USS Kidd destroyer northwest through the Straits of Malacca toward the Indian Ocean, to an area recently searched by US surveillance aircraft, P-3C Orion, which can cover 1,000-1,500 square miles every hour.
The official said there were indications that the plane flew four or five hours after disappearing from radar and that they believe it went into the water. But Malaysia has knocked down the theory, saying both Malaysian Airlines and Rolls Royce have said that the bursts of engine data ended at 1.07am o Saturday, some 20 minutes before it vanished from civilian radar systems.
The US action came hours after Malaysian officials said they had extended their search into the Andaman Sea and had requested help from India in the search for the missing Boeing 777-200ER and its 239 passengers. Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Indian foreign ministry told Bloomberg that India's search team was asked to explore “very specific coordinates in the Andaman Sea”.
Malaysian investigators also said that US officials gave them reasons to keep searching the waters west of Malaysia, far from the flight path of the plane.
Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said the search’s “main focus has always been in the South China Sea”, which is east of Malaysia and along the plane’s route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
But the search was extended earlier this week to include water far to the west on the other side of Malaysia following the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) radar recording which showed an aircraft had flown over the Malay peninsula towards the Andaman Sea.
It has not been confirmed if the tracked aircraft was the Malaysia Airlines wide-body Boeing aircraft.
“We are working very closely with the FAA and the NTSB on the issue of a possible air turn back,” Hishammuddin had said, referring to the US Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board.
“They have indicated to us that based on the information given by the Malaysian authorities, they — being the FAA and NTSB — the US team was of the view that there was reasonable ground for the Malaysian authorities to deploy resources to conduct search on the western side of the peninsula of Malaysia.
"Under the circumstances, it is appropriate to conduct the search even if the evidence suggests there is a possibility of finding a minor evidence to suggest that ... the aircraft would have been there,” said Hishammuddin, who is also acting Transport Minister.
Hishammuddin said it was possible the plane kept flying after dropping off of radar. "Of course, this is why we have extended the search," he said.
The Malaysians spent much of Thursday's news conference dismissing earlier leads.
"I’ve heard of many incidents from many sources. Like we have said from the start, we have looked at every lead and in most cases — in fact in all cases — that we have pursued, we have not found anything positive," Hishammuddin said.
He said that pictures of three large objects floating in the South China Sea posted Wednesday on a Chinese government website were not debris from the missing plane.
"A Malaysian maritime enforcement agency surveillance plane was dispatched this morning to investigate potential debris shown on Chinese satellite images.
"We deployed assets, but found nothing. We have contacted the Chinese Embassy who notified us this afternoon the images were released by mistake and did not show any debris from MH370," he said.
Hishammuddin also dismissed a report by the Wall Street Journal that signals sent by the plane's Rolls Royce engine indicated the plane kept flying for up to five hours.
He did not dispute the plane could have kept flying, but said Rolls-Royce did not receive any signals from the engine after it vanished from radar.
Earlier in the search, two oil slicks were determined to not be from the plane and an orange object thought to be part of the plane's door was investigated and found to be unrelated. – March 14, 2014.