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U.S. Military Searches Seas East of India for Malaysian Jet

U.S. surveillance aircraft hunting for the missing Malaysia Airlines jet were over a southern part of the Bay of Bengal Friday – a zone much further west than in previous searches.

A P-3 maritime surveillance aircraft was flying missions over the area, to the east of India.

The ‘search box’ is several hundred miles west of the Strait of Malacca, the shipping lane off the west coast of Malaysia that has been one of the two focus points for investigators. The other is to the east of Malaysia, in the South China Sea.

The U.S. Navy 7th Fleet vessel, the USS Kidd, is heading to the search box but has yet to reach the area, U.S. military officials said.

Navy Commander William Marks, speaking from the USS Kidd via Skype, told NBC News that the vessel was capable of spotting “something the size of a small wooden crate or basketball on the surface of the water.”

Searches as far west as the Bay of Bengal underscore overnight reports that radar data being analyzed by investigators indicates that Flight 370 continued flying for several hours west towards the Indian Ocean after its transponder stopped communication with civilian radar screen.

Alastair Jamieson and Henry Austin contributed to this report from London.