Malaysian Airlines Flight 370: Australia Eyes Use of More Powerful Side-Scan Sonar Capable of Reaching Deeper Water

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By Vittorio Hernandez | April 23, 2014 3:20 PM EST

After 10 days of searching the floor of the Indian Ocean for any trace of the missing Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 jet with zero results so far, Australia is considering the use of more sophisticated search equipment.

REUTERS/Singapore MINDEF
The Singaporean submarine support and rescue vessel, MV Swift Rescue, is prepared before it departs to assist in the search for missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 in Singapore, in this 9 March, 2014 handout picture.

Australian Defence Minister David Johnston said the country is discussing with Malaysia, China and the United States about the next phase of the search, slated for announcement next week. He hinted that the next phase would likely involve the use of a more powerful, more capable side-scan sonar that could go into deeper water.

The limitation of the U.S. Navy's submersible Blue-fin 21, which has gone over 80 per cent of the targeted search area and found nothing, is that it returns to the surface upon reaching the depth of 4,500 metres.

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Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott assured relatives of the ill-fated Flight 370 that the country would not abandon the search despite the zero result of the ongoing underwater search.

"We ay rethink the search but we will not rest until we have done all we can to solve this mystery," Mr Abbott said.

He debunked speculations that the jet landed in Diego Garcia or elsewhere, holding on to expert advice that the aircraft crashed somewhere in the Indian Ocean at a probably impact zone about 700 kilometres long and 80 kilometres wide.

However, City University Professor David Stupples, an electronic and radio engineering expert, opined that there may be a need to extend the search area by a maximum of 50,000 square kilometres, which would require additional resources since that would mean the ocean depth could go down to more than 6,000 metres.

Besides widening the search, the discussions with the other key nations include a framework on the handling of debris such a specific location where it would be brought and the protocol for handling and examination, and how to take care of human remains found, which would be recovered and treated, disclosed Martin Dolan, chief commissioner of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau.

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(Photo: REUTERS/Singapore MINDEF / Handout via Reuters)
The Singaporean submarine support and rescue vessel, MV Swift Rescue, is prepared before it departs to assist in the search for missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 in Singapore, in this 9 March, 2014 handout picture.
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