Malaysia Airlines MH370: Unmanned Submarine Forced To Cut First Search Mission Short

The Bluefin-21 unmanned submarine being used in the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, was forced to cut short its first underwater mission looking for debris of the missing plane.

According to the Agency Coordination Centre (JACC), the Bluefin-21 sub was deployed Sunday night from the Australian vessel Ocean Shield on a mission that lasted six hours.

The JACC stated the sub was forced to the surfaced sooner that they had hoped, after it hit its depth limit of 4,500 meters (about 14,800 feet).

“The six hours of data gathered by the Autonomous Underwater Vehicle is currently being extracted and analysed,” the centre said, adding that it takes two hours for the Bluefin-21 to reach the Ocean floor.

The Bluefin-21 was to be redeployed on Monday, joining 11 aircraft and 11 ships that will attempt to make visual contact with the wreckage from Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 in the waters of the southern Indian Ocean.

The addition of the unmanned submarine to the search efforts comes after the signals investigators believe, came from the Boeing 777’s black boxes, stopped pinging six-days ago.

“We haven’t had a single detection in six days. So I guess it’s time to go underwater,” search coordinator, retired Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston said.

Last week authorities searching for the whereabouts of Malaysia Airlines MH370 were hopeful they could pinpoint the exact location of the missing plane’s wreckage, however, the interruption of the signals is a major setback in the efforts to find out what happened to the lost airliner.

The batteries that power the black boxes MH370 was carrying on board, last about 30-days and since the plane went missing on March 8, it is safe to believe they have expired.

Ocean Shield is the same vessel that was carrying a US Navy ping locator to detect signals from the cockpit voice and data recorders, but now the operations move underwater with the Bluefin-21.

Even though the four pings detected, believed to be from the data recorders on Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, helped narrow the search area Houston says there is no guarantee the unmanned sub will be able to locate the wreckage.

“I would caution you against raising hopes that the deployment of the autonomous underwater vehicle will result in the detection of the aircraft wreckage. It may not, however, this is the best lead we have, and it must be pursued vigorously. Again, I emphasize that this will be a slow and painstaking process.”

Bluefin-21’s director of marine operations, Will O’Halloran, told the Christian Science Monitor during a tour of the company’s plant in late March, that the sub measures 25-foot-long, 21-inch-diameter sub is equipped with a side-scan sonar, which can craete a 3-D map of the ocean floor while “flying” 50 meters close to the bottom of the sea.

There has been no signs of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 since it disappeared from radar on March 8, while en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, with 239 passengers on board.

[Image via HitManSnr /]