air safety

Mar 4, 2017

Did Malaysia fighter jet chase flight MH370 after it went off course?

That graphic Malaysia showed to MH370 next-of-kin keeps reminding us that the authorities have a lot of explaining to do

Ben Sandilands — Editor of Plane Talking

Ben Sandilands

Editor of Plane Talking

[caption id="attachment_62036" align="aligncenter" width="610"] Key graphic from Victor Iannello's latest paper[/caption] MH370 researcher Victor Iannello says it is possible to interpret the Lido Hotel graphic that authorities showed to the next of kin of those onboard as showing a fighter jet chasing the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 7770200ER out into the northern approaches to the Straits of Malacca. It’s an important paper for a number of reasons, including the serious doubts that exist about the completeness as well as overall integrity of the information released by Malaysian authorities about the disappearance of the flight, with 239 people onboard almost three years ago on March 8, 2014. Whether the possible inferences Victor Iannello raises in his latest paper is beside the point. The authorities have been persistently and stubbornly unwilling to explain in detail the province of the graphic they showed to those most damaged by the loss of family and relatives. At the end of the paper he says: If this hypothesis considered here is true, it would answer some important questions about the radar data. But it would also raise even more questions about how Malaysia responded to MH370 after it disappeared from civilian radar screens and flew back across the Malay peninsula and above the Malacca Strait. If the theory is correct, it also would raise important questions about why Malaysia chose to keep this high-speed chase a secret. It's notable that Malaysia's authorities have resisted any further explanation of these matters for so long. But the questions will continue to dog them until they come clean.

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4 thoughts on “Did Malaysia fighter jet chase flight MH370 after it went off course?

  1. Woodstock

    Thanks for keeping the story alive

  2. Mick Gilbert

    I’ll offer the same observations that I offered to Victor;

    Only 32 minutes elapsed between the turn back and when MH370 arrived to the south of Penang and there were only about 12 minutes between when Ho Chi Minh ATCC and Kuala Lumpur ATCC jointly realised that MH370 was not where it was meant to be and when it reached Penang.

    As I have previously noted the RMAF do not maintain a Quick Reaction Alert capability at RMAF Butterworth. Even with a practiced QRA capability, getting a fighter away inside of 15 minutes from an alert is no mean feat. Without any sort of alert status or crew readiness, launching a fighter within 30 minutes of an alert on a Saturday morning at 2am would be extraordinarily difficult.

    The mechanics of launching and chasing high subsonic (M0.8+) targets are brutal when it comes to time-to-intercept V time-to-escort numbers. The F/A-18D Hornet can not achieve Mach 1+ with external stores other than the wingtip AIM-9 Sidewinders; that means no external tanks. For a Hornet, supersonic flight requires afterburner. With maximum internal fuel the Hornet can only sustain afterburner for about 14 minutes in total; that means a 9-10 minute supersonic chase, bingo fuel and a subsonic cruise home. It’s these sort of numbers that previously gave AWACS airplanes like the E-3 sitting on the edge of air engagements a lot of comfort; if their screening fighters ever looked like getting swamped they would simply turn and run and the bad guys wouldn’t have enough fuel to chase them down. It’s also the reason that the super-cruise capability (supersonic cruise without afterburner) of airplanes like the F-22 Raptor and the Eurofighter Typhoon makes them so potent.

    A sonic boom over or near Penang at 2am on a Saturday morning is not likely to have gone unnoticed.

    It’s difficult to imagine a circumstance where a military radar would lose contact with a B777, a target 15% larger than a B-52, but continue to track a fighter.

    Stupid is as stupid does but I can’t see even the RMAF as being stupid enough to present a slide evidencing a military intercept of a civilian target to grieving next-of-kin but, never say never.

    1. Tango

      Mick: All valid points, it does make an interesting possible twist. Chase and reaction times are little understood by most in todays A to A.

      Was that the night someone was maintain their night flying currency. ?

      Or do they even have that?

      By my tracking (admittedly not the best) I make the gone dark but still on Radar (at least possibly) to Penang as 300 miles. That would be 45 minutes or so.

      Certainly enough time for the base at Gong Keda to track and pass that route on to Butterworth.

  3. Tango

    Lack of fighter response to an unknown Boggie going across two countries borders certainly has been one of my questions.
    As it went very close to two Malaysian Airbases, you would think that those airbases are in those areas for their close proximity to sensitive air space areas.

    Maybe it there indeed was an intercept and that information is under lock and key.

    Some of the activity to the N.W. Malacca Straight could have been dodging around.

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