The hunt for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 will be bolstered, as Malaysia’s government announced it would send more ships to try and locate the missing jet.
Malaysia’s defense minister, Hishammuddin Hussein, said this week that its navy will send one of its ships equipped with deep-sea survey equipment. Two commercial ships with sonar-equipped submarines will also be deployed, he said, according to the New York Times.
Another ship belonging to Malaysia will stay put in the southern Indian Ocean. “The search will not stop until we find it,” Hishammuddin was quoted as saying by the Times.
Martin Dolan, the head of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau–the organization helping with the search–told the Times that Malaysia’s announcement this week to send more vessels is in addition to plans revealed by Australia.
“This is a Malaysian contribution to the Australian-led search effort and will be integrated with the capability we are acquiring through our tender process,” he told the paper.
It’s been more than four months since Flight 370, which had 239 people on board, disappeared as it was heading from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. Australian officials in a recent report said the passengers likely suffocated due to a lack of oxygen before the plane crashed somewhere in the Indian Ocean.
Late last month, the pilot of the missing airliner, Capt. Zaharie Ahmad Shah, was named as the chief suspect in the disappearance of the plane.
Investigators believe that a flight simulator was discovered at Shah’s home, showing a route that went to an island in the Indian Ocean with a short runway. The files were deleted but Malaysian computer experts were able to recover the data.
It was also rumored that Shah was having problems at home, but his friends and family denied the allegations, reported The Sunday Times.
A new search area is several hundred kilometers (miles) southwest of the most recent suspected crash site, about 1,800 kilometers (1,100 miles) off Australia’s west coast, Dolan said. Powerful sonar equipment will scour the seabed for wreckage in the new search zone, which officials calculated by reanalyzing the existing satellite data.
The shift was expected, with Dolan saying last week the new zone would be south of an area where a remote-controlled underwater drone spent weeks fruitlessly combing 850 square kilometers (330 square miles) of seabed. That search area was determined by a series of underwater sounds initially thought to have come from the plane’s black boxes. But those signals are now widely believed to have come from some other source.
The new 60,000-square kilometer (23,000-square mile) search area falls within a vast expanse of ocean that air crews have already scoured for floating debris, to no avail. Officials have since called off the air search, since any debris would likely have sunk long ago.
The hunt is now focused underwater. Beginning in August, private contractors will use powerful side-scan sonar equipment capable of probing ocean depths of 7 kilometers (4.3 miles) to comb the ocean floor in the new search zone. The job is expected to take 12 months to complete.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.