Nuclear Submarine Joins Search for Missing Malaysian Plane

Full transcript of exchanges between pilots of Flight MH370 and ground control, released by Malaysia, reveals nothing unusual.

British Royal Navy survey vessel HMS Echo, also searching for the missing passenger jet.
British Royal Navy survey vessel HMS Echo, also searching for the missing passenger jet. Reuters

A British nuclear submarine is set to join the search in the Indian Ocean for the missing Malaysian flight MH370 it was reported Wednesday.

The submarine, HMS Tireless, is in the southern Indian Ocean and will join up with the British navy survey vessel HMS Echo, News Ltd reported.

Both ships carry advanced underwater search capabilities and will hunt for the electronic ping emitted by the plane's black box.

Malaysia's Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein delivered the news via Twitter, saying the British Defense Secretary Philip Hammond had ordered the submarine to join the search.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak is to arrive in Perth Wednesday to personally thank air crews from seven nations who have been engaged in the search for almost two weeks.

The crews fly for up to 12 hours a day, three hours to reach the search zone 1,800 kilometers west of Perth, search in grid patterns for four hours and then return to Pearce air base near Perth.

Malaysia has released the complete text of the pilot and co-pilots conversations with the Kuala Lumpur tower before the communications were mysteriously cut off and the plane veered off course to head south into the Indian Ocean.

The 43 transmissions over 54 minutes contain regular air-traffic and navigational jargon and give no hint of trouble aboard the plane. The final entry is one of the pilots saying "good night, Malaysian three-seven-zero."

That contradicts an earlier account of the last words given by Malaysian authorities as "all right, good night," which was considered unusually casual, and caused speculation something was wrong in the cockpit.

But the full transcript reveals nothing unusual in the cockpit conversation, adding to the mystery of what could have caused the sudden ending of communications and the drastic change of course.

The race against time to find the plane's black box is tightening as the battery is expected to expire around April 7. An Australian navy ship equipped with a special US Navy signal detector is due to arrive in the search area on April 4.

It tows the detector at just 5 kilometers per hour and has a detection range of 1.6 kilometers, so it will need to have a small search zone if it is to have any hope of picking up a signal.

The search could drag on for a long time, the retired Australian air force chief leading the operations said Tuesday.

"The search and rescue operation is probably the most challenging I have ever seen," said Angus Houston said at a press briefing in Perth.

Houston promised that Australia would conduct "with much vigour" the operation to locate the missing Beijing-bound Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, carrying 239 people, that disappeared on March 8 after taking off from Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

"Inevitably, if we don't find wreckage on the surface, we are eventually going to have to - in consultation with everybody who has a stake in this - review what we do next," he added.

The current search area is the size of Ireland.