Malaysian Jet MH370 Search to Use More Sophisticated Tools

Image: Crew members on board an RAAF AP-3C Orion crossing the coast of Perth
Crew members on board an RAAF AP-3C Orion crossing the coast of Perth, having just completed an 11 hour search mission for missing Malaysia Airways flight MH370 before landing at the RAAF Pearce airbase in Perth, March 24.RICHARD WAINWRIGHT / Pool via AFP - Getty Images file

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The search for missing Malaysian Airlines Jet 370 will enter a new phase that focuses on intensifying the undersea search in a larger area, a top Australian official said Monday.

The new phase will undertake more detailed oceanographic mapping of areas that have not been mapped before, Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss said at a briefing with officials from Malaysia and China.

That will require more sophisticated equipment — most likely coming from the private sector — that can operate deeper in the ocean than the Bluefin 21 autonomous sub.

Planes, ships and investigators from 26 nations have been scouring the southern Indian Ocean for the Boeing 777 that vanished on March 8 as it flew from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board.

The unmanned Bluefin 21 — launched from the Australian Defense Vessel, Ocean Shield — has been the only vehicle available to survey the floor of the southern Indian Ocean for wreckage of Flight MH370. It has been taken out of action while the Ocean Shield returns to port for supplies and maintenance, but will return to search a wider area.

Launched on March 30, the Ocean Shield found the “most promising lead” in the hunt for the missing plane, when it recorded signals consistent with transmissions from aircraft black boxes, when towing a U.S. Navy owned “pinger locator.” The U.S. Navy will continue its support of the search for the next four weeks, Australia's Joint Agency Coordination Centre said in a news release.

The locator searchers to zero in on the area they believe could be the plane’s resting place, although officials assume the batteries in the black box recorders died before they could triangulate its final position.

Since then, Bluefin 21 has failed to find any wreckage.

The Bluefin-21 Autonomous Underwater Vehicle is craned over the side of the Australian Defence Vessel Ocean Shield in the southern Indian Ocean during the continuing search for the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 in this picture released by the Australian Defence Force April 17, 2014.Australian Defence via Reuters - file