The Malay Mail Online
March 19, 2014
KUALA LUMPUR, March 19 — The person flying Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 on a northern trajectory would need pinpoint precision to have any chance of foiling an extensive network of radars operated by heavily-militarised countries in the region, according to US defence personnel.
Speaking to the New York Times, they noted the area that is home to India, China and Pakistan — all of whom have nuclear weapon capabilities and not all of whom are on good terms — who watch their airspace meticulously.
The northern corridor is one of two that investigators have calculated the plane — now missing for more than 10 days could — could have taken. It ranges from the borders of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan to the northern edge of Thailand.
“I wouldn’t be looking through China and that northern route,” Sean O’Connor, a former intelligence analyst for the US Air Force told the NYT.
“It is not out of the realm of possibility that you could pull this off, but everything would have to go your way,” said O’Connor.
The northern corridor would have put MH370 in the vicinity of air bases such as the Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan, where the US Air Force’s 455th Air Expeditionary Wing is based, and a large Indian air base, Hindon Air Force Station.
China also operates a wide array of radar stations near the Himalayas, where defence analysts note it stores many of its nuclear-capable missiles.
Despite the implausibility of the plane the size of the Boeing 777-200ER going unseen by so many military radar operators, investigators are not ready to rule out the chance.
Chief among the motivation is the revelation that the Royal Malaysian Air Force did not respond to an unidentified radar plot when it flew across peninsular Malaysia, leaving open the possibility that others may have been equally lax.
In a Reuters report, analysts said the gaps in Southeast Asia’s air defences are likely to be mirrored in other parts of the developing world, and may be much greater in areas with considerably lower geopolitical tensions.
“Several nations will be embarrassed by how easy it is to trespass their airspace,” said Air Vice Marshal Michael Harwood, a retired British Royal Air Force pilot and ex-defence attaché to Washington DC.
“Too many movies and Predator (unmanned military drone) feeds from Afghanistan have suckered people into thinking we know everything and see everything. You get what you pay for. And the world, by and large, does not pay.”
Indian military sources concede that their radar capability in the Andaman Islands, in the Indian Ocean where MH370 may have flown over, was less watchful as it was not a “tense area”.
But India is adamant that MH370, if it continued flying in that direction, never entered the country’s airspace undetected.
“There is no way or the slightest possibility of our radars’ having missed the plane,” the military source said in the NYT report.
“We do not have an open air policy. Any blip, the slightest, has to be given attention. Most of our radars are semi-automated. If there is any aircraft not identified by virtue of its registration or identification, there will be an instant reaction at our end.”
MH370 deviated from its flight path to Beijing on March 8 through what Malaysian investigators conclude to be “deliberate action”. No sign of the plane and its 239 passengers have been found despite a search operation that now includes 26 countries.