Specialized Equipment Needed for Flight 370 Underwater Search

PHOTO: In this handout image provided by the U.S. Navy, The Bluefin 21, Artemis autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) is hoisted back on board the Australian Defense Vessel Ocean Shield after successful buoyancy testing April 1, 2014 in the Indian Ocean.

The search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 will involve an intensified underwater search featuring specialized equipment, officials said.

Authorities from Australia, Malaysia and China met Monday to discuss the search and later spoke at a joint press conference.

Meetings will begin Wednesday in Canberra, Australia, to analyze data, with the new underwater phase of the search expected to begin in four to six weeks, officials said. Towed side-scan sonar and autonomous vehicles are needed, tools that will likely come from the private sector.

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The search for the jetliner -- which went missing March 8 -- has involved 334 search flights and 3,137 hours in the air. The new search phase could cost $60 million.

Australian Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss said the underwater search has covered 150 square miles. As the search continues, the underwater search region will expand.

“Most of this area has never been mapped, and so it will require a significant effort for us to understand the ocean floor,” Truss said.

Additionally, authorities will reconsider previously-gathered data to ensure that past search decisions have been correct.

Malaysia’s acting transport minister, Hishammuddin Hussein, said he’s encouraged by the search efforts.

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“As we move on to the new phase, what was discussed this morning is very structured, it is very focused, and I believe that we are on the right track,” Hishammuddin said.

Chinese Transport Minister Yang Chuantang called for vigilance, saying “that the search will not be interrupted, not be suspended, not be given up and not be slacked.”

The flight was carrying 239 people, many of them Chinese, when it went missing over the Gulf of Thailand. Search efforts later focused on the southern Indian Ocean.

Southern search operations are moving to Canberra, Australia’s capital city, due to its proximity to Malaysia and China. The search will relocate to Perth -- on Australia’s western shore, closer to the search zone -- if necessary.

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