US ship, plane to search Bay of Bengal for missing jet

WASHINGTON, March 14, 2014 (AFP) – A US naval ship and surveillance plane are heading to the Andaman Sea and Bay of Bengal to search for a missing Malaysian airliner that vanished a week ago, officials said Friday. The hunt had initially focused on the South China Sea east of Malaysia — along the intended route of the jet.

But Malaysia’s government was now looking at a vast area, extending to the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean, with 13 countries now involved in the desperate search.

The Pentagon said a second naval destroyer, the USS Pinckney, which had assisted the search effort this week, was due to depart for Singapore for scheduled maintenance.

The P-8 aircraft now in the area was replacing a P-3 Orion surveillance plane that had taken part in the initial hunt for the airliner.

After flying over the Gulf of Thailand on Thursday looking for signs of plane debris, the P-3 reported “nothing found,” Warren said. US media reports, meanwhile, suggested the plane experienced marked changes in altitude after it lost contact with ground control, and altered its course more than once as if still under the command of a pilot.

A P-8 Poseidon aircraft and a guided missile destroyer, the USS Ki