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An underwater drone searching for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 and the Australian ship towing it both have defective transponders, officials said Thursday.

The transponders mounted to the U.S. Navy drone Bluefin-21 and the Australian defense vessel Ocean Shield have hardware defects that hinder the ability of the two devices to communicate with each other, according to a statement from the Australian government's Joint Agency Coordination Center, which is leading the search.

"As a consequence, spare parts for both defects will be dispatched from the United Kingdom," said the statement. The spare parts are expected to arrive in Australia on Sunday.

Ocean Shield is currently heading to Dampier, a major industrial port in the northwest of Western Australia, to receive the transponder parts. Officials said the "journey is anticipated to take a number of days."

Bluefin-21 had been recalled Wednesday after suffering "communications problems" just hours after it was deployed.

MH370 disappeared March 8 en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board.

— Daniel Arkin