Joining global efforts to locate the Malaysian plane, India on Thursday deployed four warships along with six aircraft including the latest special surveillance P-8I plane and three helicopters under the ‘Operation Searchlight’.
India pressed its assets into service after a formal request from Indian High Commissioner in Kuala Lumpur as the search expanded to cover an area stretching from South China Sea to Andaman Sea.
Four warships have been despatched from Andaman and Nicobar Command including INS Kumbhir, INS Kesari and INS Saryu from Navy and Coast Guard Ship Kanaklata Baruah to the areas specified by the Malaysian government, Navy officials said.
The Indian assets also include two Dornier aircraft from the Coast Guard and the Navy along with the P-8I maritime surveillance aircraft from INS Rajali in Tamil Nadu, they said.
The IAF has also deployed two of its latest C-130J Super Hercules transport aircraft from Hindan air base and it is expected to reach Port Blair very soon.
The Indian warships and planes were expected to join the effort late Thursday night in the 35,000 square km area identified by the Malaysian authorities for search operations, they said.
The Indian operations in the task are being handled by the Navy and instructions are being passed to the officials on ground from the Naval headquarters here, they said.
The tri-service Andaman and Nicobar Command is providing the assets for the search operations.
The area indicated by Malaysia lies in the South Andaman Sea and is West of Great Nicobar Island, the Defence Ministry said in a statement here.
The Defence Crisis Management Group is also being activated from today to monitor the progress of the search operations at Headquarter Integrated Defence Staff, it added.
“With a request for help from the government of Malaysia in tracing the missing Malaysian Airline aircraft, the focus of the search has shifted westward towards Andaman Sea. A formal request in this regard was received from Indian High Commissioner in Kuala Lumpur,” the statement said.
“With the search expanded to cover an area stretching from South China Sea to Andaman Sea, the Indian Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard have been pressed into service for the search of the missing aircraft,” it added.
The statement said the air effort for searching the area extensively will include two C-130 planes, one Mi-17 V5 helicopter of Indian Air Force and Dornier and P8i, maritime reconnaissance aircraft of Indian Navy.
In addition, ships of Indian Navy and Coast Guard will be combing the area to locate the possible crash site.
“Both Navy and Air Force are also ready to reinforce their assets on short notice,” it said.
The Commander-in-Chief Andaman and Nicobar Command has been nominated as the Overall Force Commander and Headquarter Integrated Defence Staff is coordinating the entire effort between MoD and Services.
Indian Navy has been designated the lead Service.
The Headquarters Andaman and Nicobar Command, being the nodal agency, will assist Malaysia in all possible manner for the search in the area of Andaman Sea.
The Navy is understood to be using its Rukmini surveillance satellite for locating the missing plane.
The Beijing-bound Malaysia Airlines Boeing-777 plane, with 239 people including five Indians on board, vanished over the South China Sea on Friday an hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur.
Search and rescue operations which had been mobilised since early Saturday morning have failed to find the jetliner in the South China Sea and authorities have expanded the area of search into the Andaman sea, Malaysian officials said.