Washington - A US naval ship that has been aiding the international search for a missing Malaysian airliner will be withdrawn from the effort, Pentagon officials said Monday.
After taking off from Kuala Lumpur headed to Beijing, Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappeared on 8 March with 239 people on board, triggering a massive international search across Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean.
The New York Times, citing American officials, said separately on Monday that the first turn to the west that diverted the plane from its planned flight path was carried out through a computer system that was most likely programmed by someone in the cockpit.
That reinforces increasing belief on behalf of investigators that the aircraft was deliberately diverted, the newspaper said.
The decision to take the USS Kidd off the search was taken because the search area was now so extensive that it was more efficient to look for the jet using surveillance aircraft, officials said.
The guided missile destroyer had joined the massive hunt last week and had shifted its focus west to the Andaman Sea on the request of the Malaysian government.
The Kidd, with a MH-60 helicopter on board, had completed a search of 15 000 square miles but "no debris or wreckage associated with an aircraft was found", it said.
At one point both the Kidd and another US destroyer were taking part in the search but now the US navy planned to rely on a P-8 Poseidon plane and a P-3 Orion aircraft for the effort, officials said.
"With the search area expanding into the southern Indian Ocean, long-range patrol aircraft such as the P-8A Poseidon and P-3C Orion are more suited to the current SAR [search and rescue] mission," the US Pacific Fleet said in a statement.
US Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel spoke to his Malaysian counterpart Hishammuddin Hussein on Monday, the Pentagon said, telling him that the United States "remains fully committed" to the "unprecedented" more than week-long search for MH370.