The Navy is using a small but sophisticated sonar system to help locate the wreckage of AirAsia flight QZ8501.
Teams of Navy divers from a Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit are deploying the Tow Fish side-scan sonar system from two 11 meter rigid hull inflatable boats (RHIB’s) in the Java Sea.
The sailors manually deploy the sonar sensor into the water, where they systematically scan the ocean bottom looking for possible wreckage.
The RHIB’s move at the slow pace of two knots an hour to enable the sensor to provide an accurate sonar image of what lies beneath the water.
The waters in the Java Sea are much shallower than those off the coast of Australia where it is believed that Malaysian Airlines flight 370 crashed into the ocean. The side-scan sonar has the capability of mapping shallow areas of water.
The real-time sonar images are reviewed by sailors aboard the ship who record images that might be of interest. That’s a time advantage over the programmed deep-depth submersible used to search the waters off of Australia for missing Malaysian Airlines flight 370. That imagery had to be downloaded for analysis after the submersible was recovered from the water.
The diving teams aboard the two RHIB’s are operating from the USS Fort Worth, a littoral combat ship designed to operate in shallow coastal waters.