By Ben Farmer, Defence Correspondent
25 Apr 2014
A Royal Navy submarine has ended its search for the missing Malaysia Airlines passenger jet as a senior US defence official conceded the hunt for MH370 may now take years.
The Ministry of Defence in London said HMS Tireless had stood down after combing the southern Indian Ocean with its advanced sonar scanners, looking for the airliner’s black box.
The decision to stand down the Trafalgar Class hunter killer submarine was made after Australian commanders coordinating the international search said there was no chance of hearing more ‘pings’ from the lost black box.
A statement said: “With the Australian command assessing that there is no prospect of further acoustic detections associated with the aircraft black boxes, HMS Tireless has been stood down.”
A senior US defence official told the Reuters news agency that a fortnight of scouring the Indian Ocean floor with a US Navy submersible drone had turned up no wreckage.
Searchers would now have to increase the scope of their hunt.
“We went all in on this small area and didn’t find anything. Now you’ve got to go back to the big area,” he said.
“And now you’re talking years.”
HMS Tireless has been working alongside the survey ship HMS Echo looking for the airliner which disappeared on March 8 with 239 passengers and crew on board flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
Cdr R Hywel Griffiths, the submarine’s commander, said the vessel had searched 7,000 square nautical miles in 16 days.
He said: “The only submarine participating, Tireless, with her advanced underwater search capability, is ideally suited to this challenging task.
He went on: “I am also very proud of the professionalism and enthusiasm of my ship’s company. My highly trained and experienced young team of sonar operators were key to this operation, supported by the steadfast commitment of the remainder of my team, some in their very first months at sea.”
HMS Echo is currently heading for a port in western Australia to take on supplies, having supported the search in recent weeks.
Although the most promising efforts have been focused underwater, an extensive air and surface search is still continuing, nearly seven weeks after the loss of the jet.
On Friday up to eight military aircraft and 10 ships working on visual searches of an area of about 19,000 square miles.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak told CNN on Thursday that his government will release a preliminary report on the plane’s disappearance next week.
The report has already been sent to the United Nation’s International Civil Aviation Organization, but has yet to be made available to the public, CNN reported.