(ABC News) – U.S. officials have an “indication” the missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner may have crashed in the Indian Ocean and is moving the USS Kidd to the area to begin searching.
It will take another 24 hours to move the ship into position, a senior Pentagon official told ABC News.
“We have an indication the plane went down in the Indian Ocean,” the senior official said.
The official initially 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. Officials later said the plane likely did not fly four or five hours, but did not specify how long it may have been airborne.
Pentagon officials said that the USS Kidd was being moved at the request of Malaysia and is heading towards an area where the Indian Ocean and the Andaman Sea meet. It has helicopters aboard that can scour the area.
The U.S. 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 plane and its 239 passengers.
Investigators also said today that U.S. officials gave them reasons to keep searching the waters west of Malaysia, far from the flight path of the Malaysia Airlines plane.
Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said that 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.
“We are working very closely with the FAA and the NTSB on the issue of a possible air turn back,” Hishammuddin said, referring to the U.S. 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 U.S. 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.”
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 today’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,” Hishamuddin 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.
Hishamuddin 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 didn’t 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.