MH 370: Is It Fair To Blame Malaysia By Saying She Was Slow To React?

Prologue

On Sunday, 23rd Monday, 24th March 2014, the Malaysian Prime Minister announced that based on the findings of the UK-based Aircraft Accidents Investigations Board it was concluded that the flight of the MH370 ended in the southern Indian Ocean.

This was met by heavy criticism in particular by families and relatives of the passengers who are in Beijing. This is understandable. As humans, we always cling on whatever glimmer of hope there is that our loved ones will somehow appear unscathed. I went through this when my brother passed away three months ago. I kept thinking that this was all a bad dream and that I would wake up to my brother’s jokes, laughter and hugs again. However, such hope should be balanced with situational logic – the acceptance of reality and that should help overcome the pathological grief a person would have. The sooner one accepts reality, the sooner the trauma will heal.

This pathological grief will get prolonged not only if one refuses to accept reality, but also by irresponsible acts to promote hope. Hope is the act of prolonging the arrival of the inevitable. I will here chide the opposition parliamentarians who call upon the government to provide physical proof that the MH370 had indeed crashed. May I just forcefully drag everyone to the reality that the aircraft cannot fly for 19 days; based on the Doppler effect triangulation the last possible location of the aircraft points to the extremely unforgiving southern Indian Ocean. If anyone, just any one person could survive the extremities of the whole situation, then let us just call that a bonus from God. While hope is good to a certain extent, my only hope is for the black boxes to be located before the batteries run out.

The search for debris is not going to be an easy task even on a normal day. Australia’s Prime Minister has described it as “looking for a needle in a haystack, but having to find the haystack first.” I would take that a step farther by saying it is like looking for hundreds of pieces of one single needle in a haystack that has yet to be found. How is that as a perspective? Now add nine-metre waves with lots and lots of whitecaps into the equation.

I take offence at a statement by representatives of the families in Beijing, as well as members of the foreign media, AND the Quislings amongst us here in Malaysia that we (Malaysia and its military) have murdered the passengers and crew, and that we have either been hiding or not been forthcoming with information or both. Malaysia has been providing all information pertaining to this incident on a daily basis, and even to the extent of sharing sensitive military data that has jeopardised its defence just so to render search and rescue efforts more effective. With the information made available to me as well as by Andak Jauhar’s analysis of the MH370 incident I shall draw a timeline so readers would understand why was the SAR conducted in the South China Sea, when exactly was SAR expanded to the west of Peninsular Malaysia, and how fast did information flow in. All times quoted in this timeline is Malaysian time (UTC +8):

08 March 2014

0041 – MH370 took off from the Kuala Lumpur International Airport with 227 passengers and 12 crew members bound for Beijing with an endurance of approximately eight hours.

0107 – the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) made its last transmission on the aircraft’s performance. All systems were running as per normal. Next transmission was due at 0137 hours.

0119 – a person believed to be the co-pilot acknowledged the handing over of the MH370 from Malaysia’s Flight Information Region (FIR) to Vietnam’s FIR. His last words were, “Alright, goodnight.”

0121 – the secondary radar at Subang’s Air Traffic Control centre lost contact with the MH370 over waypoint IGARI at 06.5515N 103.3443E, after a deliberate act of turning off the transponder as well as other communications equipment. The aircraft was then at 35,000 feet above sea level. However, the aircraft continues to be tracked by the Royal Malaysian Air Force’s (RMAF) primary radar and had its flight path towards waypoint VAMPI monitored and recorded by RMAF’s Air Defence Centres.

0215 – RMAF’s primary radar consistently monitored the path of the MH370 from waypoints VAMPI, GIVAL before finally losing track of it after waypoint IGREX while flying at 29,500 feet above sea level.

As a Contracting State to the ICAO Convention of 1944, Malaysia assumed the role of the Rescue Coordination Centre under Annex 12 of the Convention for the MH370 Search and Rescue efforts because the MH370 had yet to enter Vietnamese FIR control (its radar had not detected the MH370 yet when she changed her flight path). Based on sightings of debris, the Search and Rescue efforts concentrated at its last known position near waypoint IGARI.

0630 – MH370 was to have arrived in Beijing.

0811 – the last handshake between the MH370’s navigation system and an INMARSAT satellite was made.

1017 – Rear Admiral Ngo Van Phat of the Vietnamese Navy announced that the MH370 may have crashed about 153 nautical miles (300km) from Tho Chu island, near Ca Mau. This statement was carried by Tuoi Tre News and was subsequently picked up and released by Reuters at 1302 hours, sending SAR assets into the area.

20140326-130701.jpg

1730 – based on the flight path monitored by the RMAF, the SAR effort was also expanded into the Strait of Malacca.

09 March 2014

– search around Tho Chu island failed to yield anything.

– the SAR efforts were expanded into the Andaman Sea. The RMAF’s sensitive radar data recordings have been shared with the SAR authorities.

10 March 2014

1343 – Vietnamese news agency Tuoi Tre reported that a passing aircraft from Singapore spotted an orange object possibly a liferaft or a lifejacket 177km northwest of Tho Chu island. SAR assets deployed later identified this object as a cable wrap.

11 March 2014

The Malaysian Chief of Air Force issued a press statement refuting a report by the Malaysian daily Berita Harian that quoted him as supposedly saying the aircraft had flown towards Pulau Perak.

20140326-131528.jpg

12 March 2014

The official website of the State Administration of Science, Technology, and Industry for National Defence of China (SASTIND) showed pictures of three objects spotted in the South China Sea believed to be related to the MH370.  These photos were then shown to the public by the China Central Television (CCTV), Xinhua News Agency, CNN, BBC and also by other foreign news agencies.  According to SASTIND, these images were taken at latitude 6.7N 105.65E at 11.00am on 9th March 2014.

SASTIND website showing debris thought to be related to the MH370
SASTIND website showing debris thought to be related to the MH370

Hence, SAR assets were again sent to verify the findings which we now know were false sightings, but not before more time and concentration of vital resources have been wasted.

14 March 2014

– search was expanded into the Indian Ocean.

15 March 2014

The Malaysian Prime Minister announced that the object tracked by the RMAF’s primary radar was indeed the MH370. This conclusion was made based on processed data acquired from INMARSAT and concurred by the FAA, NSTB, AAIB and the Malaysian authorities.

20 March 2014

The Australian Prime Minister announced satellite images showing large debris in the southern Indian Ocean. The image was taken four days earlier.

22 March 2014

The Chinese government announced that its satellite had found debris in the southern Indian Ocean. That image too was taken four days prior to the announcement.

24 March 2014

The Prime Minister of Malaysia announced that based on triangulation of handshakes between the MH370 and satellites, the flight ended in the southern Indian Ocean.

The rest is academic.

Epilogue

The timeline displayed above shows how Malaysia has, from Day One, been moving as fast as it could to get to the correct pointers only to be side-tracked by false and unverified sightings.  Malaysia has also been sharing everything, and literally everything including data of its sensitive military capabilities, as well as air bases so the search and rescue effort would benefit the best out of the information made available to them by the Malaysian authorities.

The timeline above also displays the average time of four days needed for satellite images to be processed before they can be safely suggested to the search and rescue teams.

What the timeline above suggests is that while the authorities are working hard to find the missing aircraft, the families as well as the public in general ought to exercise patience and restraint in their quest to know what happened. The media should be more responsible in reporting the incident as well as the search and rescue efforts as not only will the effects be adversely negative, but irresponsible reporting provides false hopes to the family that are put on an emotional roller-coaster ride on a daily basis.

And to those who call themselves Malaysians but continue in bashing whatever effort the government offers in bringing this episode to a closure, I doubt you qualify even a place as a zoological display for despicable animals.

Shame on you.

The Chinese Navy “Visits” Beting Serupai

20130328-174347.jpg

Mention the name Beting Serupai you might get frowned upon by many. Mention the name James Shoal, and it may raise a few eyebrows. To most Malaysian, they would not be able to pinpoint where James Shoal is, save for some avid fishing enthusiasts, but this 22-meter deep shoal 80 kilometres off Bintulu, Sarawak, has been “visited” by elements of the People’s Liberation Army – Navy (PLA-N) or simply referred to as the Chinese Navy, yesterday.

In its report on the 26th March 2013, the Associated Press wrote:

The official People’s Daily online said Wednesday that one destroyer, two frigates and an amphibious landing ship took part in the drills around Chinese-controlled outcroppings. They involved hovercraft, ship-born helicopters, amphibious tanks, and land-based fighters and bombers, and were followed by a ceremonial visit Tuesday to James Shoal farther south.

The Beting Serupai has always been part of China’s claim, lumped together in the Spratlys, as its southernmost territory. Prior to this “visit” the PLA-N visited the shoal in 1993 and 1994. In April of 2010, its vessel, the Marine Surveillance Ship-83 placed a sovereignty stele into the water area of the shoal.

When Malaysia enhanced its relationship with China in May 2011, it was looked at as a step further towards harnessing a greater economic relationship. The Malaysian Opposition was quick to excoriate the act as political pandering. But in retrospect, it was strategically a good move as it relives the act by the Sultanate of Melaka with the Chinese. China is not a country one could just ignore. As in the 15th century, an alliance with China not only provides economic benefits, but also from a military standpoint.

It is no secret that after China’s warnings to Japan, South Korea and Taiwan in 2012, the United States was actively looking for bases in this region. Among the countries where bases are sought include the Philippines and Vietnam. However, no other modern naval base offers the best proximity than Malaysia’s own Teluk Sepanggar just north of Kota Kinabalu. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that the carrier battle group of the USS John C Stennis decided to make a port call there in early October 2012. Before that, in the month of April 2012, the RMN base was visited by the US Navy Secretary, who brought with him the submarine-tender, the USS Emory S Land, and the Los Angeles-class nuclear attack submarine, the USS Louisville.

The only factor that is stopping the US Navy from getting naval base facilities in Sabah is probably not having a Malaysian government that would kowtow to them. Therefore, the outcome of the next general elections would be important to them. Little wonder that Sabah has been the aim of a certain party. However, this writer hopes that this dangerous effort would not come to fruition.

That the Department of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines has asked Filipinos to stop referring to Sabah as Sabah, Malaysia three days ago, citing Memorandum Circular No. 162 issued by Malacanang back in 2008. The DFA has also begun referring to Filipinos fleeing Sabah as “displaced persons” instead of “evacuees” or “returnees.” This is the Philippines government doing a 180 on its previous position re the Sabah claim. The fact that the US Navy and Marines have begun deploying its assets in the Philippines comes as no surprise. On Tuesday the USN and US Marine Corps offloaded more than 270 tactical and amphibious assault vehicles in Subic Bay, Zambales.

American troops from the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, III Marine Expeditionary Force, offloaded a High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle from the container and roll-on, roll-off ship USNS 1st Lt. Jack Lummus on March 21. Some 8,000 troops from both the US and the Philippines will commence its Balikatan exercise on 5th April. And the US has yet to offer an explanation on why its minesweeper, the USS Guardian, could run aground on Tubbataha Reef in the Sulu Sea near Palawan, two weeks before the incursion by the Sulu militants. And suddenly, Jamalul Kiram III who hardly has enough money to cover the bills for his twice-weekly kidney dialysis, could find the financial resources to send hundreds of armed militants across the Sulu Sea to Lahad Datu.

Perhaps, the Chinese naval exercise in the South China Sea and its “visit” to the southernmost part it claims comes as a warning to any party that plans to upset the military balance in the region. China, I would expect, would want to protect its interests; and the 180 by the Philippines in the Sabah issue could be seen as an attempt to de-stabilise the region. Having Sabah not only allows a nation to dip its fingers into Sabah’s oilfields but also increases its EEZ reach into the Spratlys.

Whatever the intentions may be by all the related parties, the Malaysian government should seriously look into increasing its naval and aerial assets. A country that is weak militarily will only see its soil trampled by foreign forces. The government should also make sure Sabah is not lost to another nation, and act against the Quislings who have caused the emergency in Lahad Datu.

Enter The Dragon – Part 2

Chinese Aircraft Carrier (Asian-Defence.net)20121029-225730.jpg

May I also refer to my previous posting (Enter The Dragon)

On Friday, 26th October, 2012, Chinese Vice-Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun warned Japan over its action at the Diaoyu (called Senkaku by the Japanese) islands.

“We are watching very closely what action Japan might take regarding the Diaoyu islands and their adjacent waters,” Zhang Zhijun said, as reported by Reuters, at an unusual late night news briefing. “The action that Japan might take will shape China’s countermeasures.”

“If Japan continues down its current wrong path and takes more erroneous actions and creates incidents regarding the Diaoyu Islands and challenges China, China will definitely take strong measures to respond to that,” Zhang said.

China’s stance vis-à-vis the East and South China Seas have alarmed regional defence watchers. The Philippines, fresh from a very heavily one-sided standoff with the Chinese navy, mulled the purchase of two Maestrale-class frigates from Italy “as is” in order to boost up its antiquated navy.

Phillipines Defense Undersecretary for Munitions, Installations and Material Fernando Manalo described the frigates as “more lethal” than the Navy’s BRP Gregorio del Pilar, a re-commissioned but stripped down US Hamilton-class Coast Guard cutter.

He stressed that the frigates would not be stripped down like the Hamilton-class cutters.

“We demanded that we will not accept what is less than what has been installed in the vessel. Nothing will be removed,” Manalo said.

Chinese naval officers of late have been quoting Alfred Thayer Mahan extensively. In expanding her fleet, the Chinese have consistently argued that China now depends on oceanic trade for vital raw materials and for energy. Mahan always saw oceanic trade as the key argument for seapower. And while Mahan’s doctrine is greatly appreciated by the Chinese, the Americans will continue to see a reduction in their naval assets, putting pressure on America’s allies to arm themselves.

The Chinese recently had its first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, entered service in September this year in the midst of the Senkaku/Diaoyu fiasco. The former Soviet Varyag will be joined by two other aircraft carriers now being built in China.

The Chinese have also acquired the licence to build Tu-22M3 very potent anti-carrier bombers that gained notoriety during the Cold War in which the US Navy concluded that it was not nearly enough to shoot down anti-ship missiles launched by Backfires simply because the bombers could launch missiles from beyond the horizon, return to base to re-arm, and return for another attack, until the US fleet’s defences were exhausted. It is a popular belief that the Chinese navy would want to acquire the AS-4 anti-ship missiles once carried by Soviet Backfires, now being produced again by the Russians. This missile would give the Chinese a true beyond-the-horizon capability. Otherwise, they can employ their AS-17 rocket-ramjet anti-ship missiles.

Whether or not the East China Sea is the real focus of China remains to be seen. But the acquisition of aircraft carriers and Backfire bombers certainly reinforce China’s adoption of Mahanian ideas – keep the US fleet beyond the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands, while their real focus is the South China Sea where the stakes may be quite high (oil and fishery, the valuable latter is already proven to be there).

Chinese hegemony in the South China Sea, strengthen by its now blue-water navy and good deterrence provided by the Backfire bombers, would almost certainly force ASEAN member countries to one day accept a considerable degree of Chinese “sovereignty” over the South China Sea.

And Malaysia’s already precarious position as a maritime nation is not helped by myopic politicians who keep questioning defence purchases just for the sake of winning public opinion.