Asian military officials may be staging a mass cover-up over missing flight MH370, because they do not want to expose gaping holes within their countries' air defences, a leading aviation expert has suggested.

The Malaysian Airlines jet went missing 1.30am on Sunday, March 9. But it was not until the following Tuesday that the Malaysian Air Force reported they had spotted the aircraft on radar over the Strait of Malacca at 2.15am.

Now Thailand's military say they detected a plane at 1.28am, eight minutes after MH370's communications went down, heading towards the Strait but did not share the information because they were not asked for it.

Intensive background checks on everyone aboard had turned up no-one else with a political or criminal motive to crash or hijack the plane.

Writing on his blog, Aviation expert David Learmount said: 'Maybe these states’ air defences, like Malaysia’s, are not what they are cracked up to be. And maybe they wouldn’t want the rest of the world to know that.'

Mr Learmount, a former pilot and now operations and safety editor at the respected Flight Global publication, points out that MH370 might have flown over several Asian countries including Thailand, Burma, China, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Turkmenistan and Afghanistan.

He said they may be withholding vital radar data about Flight MH370 for fear it would expose gaping holes in their multi-billion pound air defences

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