SYDNEY -- The hunt for missing Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 is on track to cost hundreds of millions of dollars, becoming the most expensive search in aviation history with 26 countries contributing planes, ships, submarines and satellites.
A month into the search for the jet, estimates compiled by Reuters show that at least $44 million has already been spent on the deployment of military ships and aircraft in the Indian Ocean and South China Sea by Australia, China, the United States and Vietnam.
The figure is based on defense force statistics on available hourly costs of various assets, estimates by defence analysts and costs reported by the Pentagon.
The figure for the first month of the search is already about equal to the official $44 million spent in searches lasting several months spread over a two-year time frame for Air France's Flight AF447, which crashed into the Atlantic Ocean in 2009.
The $44 million estimate for MH370 does not cover all the defence assets being used by countries including Britain, France, New Zealand and South Korea, nor numerous other costs such as civilian aircraft, accommodation for hundreds of personnel and expenses for intelligence analysts worldwide.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, whose country is leading the search, and his Malaysian counterpart, Najib Razak, have repeatedly said the cost of the search is not an issue.