The underwater search zone of missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 will be doubled if the plane is not found in coming weeks, Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss says.
If the Boeing 777 isn’t found by the time that search has been completed, it will be expanded to 120,000sq km, Mr Truss said.
That would “cover the entire highest probability area identified by expert analysis”, Mr Truss announced after meeting with Malaysian transport minister Liow Tiong Lai and Chinese transport minister Yang Chuantang on Thursday.
“We’re confident we’re searching in the right area,” Mr Truss told a press conference.
“I’m very confident that we have the best search equipment in the world and if the aircraft is in the area that we’re looking, we will find it.
“The high resolution of the pictures that the ministers have been shown today gives us a high level of confidence that, if there is any piece of the aircraft that’s within the range of these vehicles, they will pick it up and be able to identify it.”
Mr Truss added that all those involved in the search were determined to do everything possible “to give answers to the families of the loves ones who’ve been lost”.
The additional search phase may take up to a year to complete given adverse weather conditions in forthcoming winter months, Mr Truss said.
The Sir Angus Houston-led Joint Agency Coordination Centre said it expected the initial phase would be “largely” complete by around next month.
Aviation analyst Neil Hansford last month noted there was no suggestion of additional funds for the search in the May 12 budget, saying there was a chance Australia could withdraw if the hunt dragged on.
In last year’s budget, up to $90 million was allocated.
The Malaysian government committed in August last year to matching Australia’s costs.
Not a single scrap of MH370 has been discovered since it vanished from radar screens more than a year ago with 239 people on board.