Nice to have a week with no more German-sponsored terrorist attacks on which to report! Always remember to look behind terrorist organisations to see which intelligence agency is controlling them.
I have been meaning to return to the ‘mysterious’ disappearance of Flight MH370 some for some weeks, given the appearance of various bits of wreckage at various places in the Indian Ocean. As regular readers of this column will know, there is no mystery. Flight MH370 was shot down by an Iranian Fakour-2 missile fired from a Chinese Kilo-class SSK in the South China Sea. The Kilo in turn was whacked by the USS Pinckney’s SH-60, an excellent piece of work.
As I predicted, we have been favoured with 777 bits appearing around the Indian Ocean, coupled with explanations about ocean currents. How convenient. Of course if you’re trying to cover up mass murder by the PLA Navy and the Chinese have you by the balls, because their assets run your country, or they buy your debt, or your iron-ore, then you are going to drop your newly-acquired 777 bits off at the nearest beach to a likely-looking ocean current.
You could save your money and just drop the bits off at one of your own beaches, but then that would give the game away, wouldn’t it?
Just to recap, at 0122 local time on 8th March 2014 Flight MH370, a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-2H6ER, registration 9M-MRO, with 239 souls aboard, Captain Zaharie Shah in command, disappeared from air traffic control radar screens. Vietnamese military radar then shows it performing a series of radical manoeuvres, consistent with missile or fighter evasion. Neither the aircraft nor any of her crew and passengers has bene heard from since.
Vietnamese military radar almost certainly caught the incoming SAM, and alerted Ho Chi Minh Center. The incident was treated as an emergency from the get-go, and another aircraft was asked to try and raise MH370 on the 121.5 guard frequency.
The shoot-down was within range of the powerful AN/SPY-1D radar on the Pinckney, whose presence in the South China Sea may not have been accidental. She had left Hong Kong a few days before and may have been ordered into the South China Sea in response to chatter picked up by those nice people the NSA. A major incident such as this is often preceded by chatter or other intelligence indications, including of course the sortieing of the Chinese Kilo from Hainan.
We can rule out a missile strike from the Pinckney, by the way. Shooting down civilian airliners is just not a US Navy thing – unlike the Vincennes incident there was no conflicting air activity to generate confusion in the Combat Information Center. She also seems to have been out of missile range.
This began almost straight away. The Malaysian government, caving into pressure from Peking, lied about the capabilities of their civilian radar, which was perfectly capable of tracking a Boeing 777-sized target at altitude, and pretended that their military radar had seen MH370 fly west across the Malayan Peninsular. According to them it was last seen 200 nautical miles (nm) west of Penang.
Then we were favoured with satellite pings, supposedly showing that MH370 had flown to the Southern Indian Ocean (SIO). Then we had bits of aircraft wreckage found floating around the SIO. When this turned out to be from another aircraft, probably a 747, attention then turned to some other wreckage, again not from MH370 and some alleged ‘black box’ pings.
The largest search effort ever was launched, concentrating on the SIO. This of course failed to find the airplane, or any sign of it. This is unsurprising. As I always told my intelligence students, if you’re searching for a lost airplane it helps to make sure that you’re in the right ocean.
Problems With The SIO Theory
There is one tiny, wee flaw with the SIO theory. It’s bollocks. For starters the whole thing was caught on US and Vietnamese military radar. Malaysian primary civilian radar also failed to pick up the supposed flight across Malaysia and into the Bay of Bengal.
The plane is supposed to have made a dog-leg around the northern tip of Sumatra, but that would bring it within range of the radars at Car Nicobar Indian Air Force Base, in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. It didn’t show, nor did it appear on the RAAF’s Jindalee Over The Horizon radar, although it would have been well within range as it flew south of Indonesia towards the SIO.
There’s also a problem with the fuel load. MH370 wasn’t carrying enough fuel to get to the southernmost ping point identified by INMARSAT, ruling that data out as having come from the aircraft. Dumping dodgy data into a computer system would not be too difficult for the Chinese, of course. They have at least 3,000 people working on attacking Western IT systems at any one time.
The official fuel figure is 108,200 lbs including diversion reserves and a contingency. KL-Peking is only about 2,700 miles. The published fuel allowance was 82,000 lbs, which is reasonable for a Boeing 777-200 for a flight with a planned duration of just over 5 ½ hours. The 26,200 lbs on top sounds a bit high to me, given that Malaysian were struggling financially, no adverse weather was predicted and there were a number of diversion options if the flight ran into trouble.
Airlines now typically load about one-third extra fuel, but the price of aviation fuel (Jet-1) March 2014 was high –it only fell off a cliff later that year. I suspect that MH370 was carrying no more than 104,000 lbs of fuel, with 15% diversion reserves and a 10% contingency.
Either way there wasn’t enough fuel to make that southernmost ping point, and probably not enough to make the SIO, period. The southern search box, based on the INMARSAT data, is about 3,700 miles from the point where MH370 diverts from its flightpath. By then the plane had already been in the air for 40 minutes.
Any way you cut it, that search box is about 4,000 miles from KL on the route MH370 is supposed to have taken. Moreover you have to allow for the fuel-consuming radical maneuvers observed by the Vietnamese. You can forget the SIO. If they want to find M370 they need to resume searching in the South China Sea.
The Manafort Resignation
I see that Paul Manafort has accepted a reduced role on the Trump campaign team following an attack piece in the New York Times, or, as we call it in England, the New York Stiftung.
If you’re a patriotic, Republican candidate for president, i.e. not some warmed over German-American like von Eisenhower or von Hoover, and a member of your campaign team is attacked in the New York Times, you promote him or her. You don’t ask them to stand down.
Paul Manafort was fully entitled to work for the elected Ukrainian government. So, he doesn’t want to start a Second Cold War with Russia. Good for him. Neither do I.
I gather he was doing good work and I hope he remains involved in the campaign.
This Week’s Movie Review: The Living Daylights (1987), dir: John Glen
The fifteenth move in the series, The Living Daylights marked the departure of one old friend, in Roger Moore, with Timothy Dalton taking the title role, and the return of another – Aston Martin. The V8 Dalton drives is the first Aston in a Bond movie since George Lazenby drove a DBS in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. William Towns’s muscular design still looks good, even if it’s not as quite as pretty as the DB5 Sean Connery drove in Goldfinger.
Of course weanies will point out that a Skoda might have been less conspicuous in Cold War Bratislava than an Aston Martin V8. No doubt, but that’s hardly the point, and simply wouldn’t be cricket. We can’t have 007 driving a Skoda! One of the first things I learned when I got into the spy-game is that spooks generally don’t bother with disguises. Everybody pretty much knows who everybody else is. The CIA are so conspicuous that they may as well hand out business cards saying ‘CIA’, with the phone number. Mossad are little more discreet, and even work on Saturdays, but even so you soon get to know who’s who.
I once asked a Mossad officer, over the phone, who was working undercover, ‘so how are Mossad this evening?’, only to be told to ‘ssshhh’! I am sure he smiled, however. If we had met in the street I would not even have said ‘Shalom’.
Timothy Dalton is under-rated as an actor and actually plays quite a good Bond, albeit without the style and humour of Roger Moore or the panache of Sean Connery. Joe Don Baker plays a superb baddie, who’s out to double-cross the KGB. John Rhys-Davies is also very good as General Pushkin of the KGB, as is Art Malik, a good Moslem fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan. The scene at the end, where they are delayed by trouble at the airport, is a hoot.
Maryam d’Abo is one of the prettier Bond girls. Rather sweet, she plays the violin and doubles up as a part-time sniper. Thomas Wheatley, as Saunders, is very convincing as an MI6 officer – plummy accent, none too bright and inclined to do things by the book.
The finale on the air base in Afghanistan is quite dramatic, even if the C-130 is obviously taxying rather than taking off. A C-130 is a big-ticket item and one can well imagine that John Glen was keen not to bend it.
Not the finest movie of the series, but a good yarn nonetheless, well-made and worth watching again, and again.
Michael Shrimpton was a barrister from his call to the Bar in London in 1983 until being disbarred in 2019 over a fraudulently obtained conviction. He is a specialist in National Security and Constitutional Law, Strategic Intelligence and Counter-terrorism. He is a former Adjunct Professor of Intelligence Studies at the American Military University.