The search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 could take years, a US Naval Officer suggested on Sunday, as search and rescue officials raced to locate the plane's black box recorder days before its batteries are set to die.
Ten ships and as many aircraft are searching a massive area in the Indian Ocean west of Perth, trying again to find some trace of the aircraft, which went missing more than three weeks ago and is presumed to have crashed in one of the most remote areas on the planet.
An Australian navy ship, the Ocean Shield, was fitted with a sophisticated US black box locator and an underwater drone on Sunday, and is expected to leave port and join the search later in the day.
But US Navy Captain Mark Matthews, who is in charge of the US Towed Pinger Locator (TPL), told journalists at Stirling Naval Base near Perth that the lack of information about where the plane went down seriously hampers the ability to find it.
"Right now the search area is basically the size of the Indian Ocean, which would take an untenable amount of time to search," he said.
"If you compare this to Air France flight 447, we had much better positional information of where that aircraft went into the water," he said, referring to a plane that crashed in 2009 near Brazil and which took more than two years to find.
Numerous objects have been spotted in the two days since Australian authorities moved the search 1,100 km (685 miles) after new analysis of radar and satellite data concluded the Boeing 777 travelled faster and for a shorter distance after vanishing from civilian radar screens on March 8. None has been confirmed as coming from Flight MH370.
Australia, which is coordinating the search in the southern Indian Ocean, said it had established a new body to oversee the investigation and issued countries involved in the search a set of protocols to abide by should any wreckage be found.
Malaysia says the plane, which disappeared less than an hour into a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, was likely diverted deliberately. Investigators have determined no apparent motive or other red flags among the 227 passengers or the 12 crew.
WEATHER THREATENS EXPANDED SEARCH
The Australian Maritime