The U.S. Navy has called off the USS Kidd and its two MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopters from the search for the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 that disappeared more than a week ago, Navy officials announced late Monday.
The decision to drop the Kidd from the search was made in consultation with the Malaysian government, said Cmdr. William Marks, a spokesman for the Navy's 7th Fleet.
"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," Marks said.
Kidd and its helicopters have searched more than 15,000 square miles of water since Flight MH370 disappeared March 8 about an hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur on the way to Beijing. The Kidd has searched about 1,500 square miles each day, from the Gulf of Thailand to the northwest entrance of the Strait of Malacca and into the Indian Ocean and Andaman Sea.
During the search, the Kidd had posted extra lookouts topside, and the two MH-60R helicopters were flying additional sorties each day. Additionally, "the ship's engineers have rigged additional lighting to aid in the 24-hour search and are maintaining the engineering plant to its highest efficiency to ensure the ship is able to meet her mission," according to a Navy news release.
The Kidd will head back to the South China Sea to resume its scheduled operations, said Marks.
The move to call off the Kidd comes several days after USS Pinckney, the first U.S. military vessel to arrive in support of the search efforts, left for Singapore for scheduled maintenance and routine repairs.
"With the search area expanding into the Strait of Malacca, Pinckney is not currently needed until follow-on information is available and planning occurs," Marks said. "She will continue searching during her transit south."
The Navy still has a P-8A Poseidon and a P-3C Orion in the search area. The Poseidon is heading toward Australia to support the search efforts in the southern area of the search area, and the Orion will remain in Kuala Lumpur as coordinated by the Malaysian government.
The multinational search-and-rescue operation is now centered 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," public affairs officials stated in a Navy release.