P-3C Orion assists in search for missing Malaysia Airlines plane
Two MH-60R helicopters from USS Pinckney were equipped with Forward Looking Infrared cameras (FLIR) last night in the search efforts of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 that disappeared somewhere over the waters between Malaysia and Vietnam early Saturday morning.
At this time, though, no commercial aircraft wreckage has been spotted, said Cmdr. William Marks, the spokesman for the U.S. 7th Fleet.
The Pinckney, an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, was diverted from training operations in the South China Sea, according to a Navy news release.
In addition, a P-3C Orion aircraft is currently providing assistance. Navy officials said the P-3C Orion aircraft left Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan, and arrived on station about 3 p.m. Sunday.
Marks said the aircraft will search an area west of Malaysia in the northern section of the Strait of Malacca and cover roughly 1,500 square miles every hour. The Orion has the capability of conducting long range searches. It also brings radar and communication capabilities to the effort, the Navy release said.
The Navy also dispatched the USNS John Ericcson, a Military Sealift Command underway replenishment oiler. This will "ensure Pinckney and its helicopters can maximize their time on station," Marks said.
Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 disappeared from radar early Saturday morning, less than an hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur on the way to Beijing. Search-and-rescue operations are centering on waters between Malaysia and Vietnam, where the South China Sea meets the Gulf of Thailand.
Three Americans were aboard the plane, which was carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew members, the airline said.
"Our thoughts and prayers go out to all of those affected by this tragic event," 7th Fleet public affairs officials said in a statement.