US had deployed sonar searches for Flight 370, but will now bail. Search will shift to other countries and private contractors.
Matt Siegel, Senior Political and General News Correspondent for Thomson Reuters based in Australia.
“United States the first country to scale back its spending on costly Flight MH370 search, source says”
Reuters – April 30, 2014 – http://news.nationalpost.com/2014/04/30/united-states-the-first-country-to-scale-back-its-spending-on-costly-flight-mh370-search-source-says/
With the search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370entering a new, much longer phase, the countries involved must decide how much they are prepared to spend on the operation and what they stand to lose if they hold back.The search is already set to be the most costly in aviation history and spending will rise significantly as underwater drones focus on a larger area of the seabed that Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said on Monday could take six to eight months to search. But despite U.S. President Barack Obama publicly promising to commit more assets, the United States appears keen to begin passing on the costs of providing sophisticated sonar equipment that will form the backbone of the expanded hunt.That means Australia,China and Malaysia – the countries most closely involved in the operation – look set to bear the financial and logistical burden of a potentially lengthy and expensive search. “We’re already at tens of millions. Is it worth hundreds of millions?” a senior U.S. defence official asked last week. “I don’t know. That’s for them to decide.” He made it clear that Washington was intent on spending less from now on, making it the first major donor country to scale back its financial commitment to the search. “We’re not going to pay to perpetually use the equipment on an indefinite basis. Basically from here on out – starting next week or so – they need to pick up the contract,” he said. At least $44 million was spent on the deployment of military ships and aircraft in the Indian Ocean and South China Sea in the first month of the search, about the same as was spent on the whole underwater search for Air France’s Flight AF447, which crashed into the Mid-Atlantic in 2009. The Malaysian jetliner carrying 239 people disappeared en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing more than seven weeks ago, and huge surface and underwater searches have failed to solve the mystery of what happened. That mystery has major implications for airline manufacturers such as Boeing, which builds the 777 model that crashed and is awaiting a verdict as to what went wrong. Malaysia is leading an investigation into the crash, but Australia has a key role in coordinating the hunt since the plane is believed to have crashed in its search and rescue zone. Abbott said finding any wreckage on the ocean surface was now highly unlikely and Australia would forge ahead with the upcoming phase of the search despite it likely costing A$60-million. He added that while private companies under contract to Australia would soon be taking over from the military assets dispatched in the wake of the crash, he would be “seeking some appropriate contribution from other nations.”
The US has specifically ended subsurface surveys – phasing-out Bluefin searches.
Telegraph – May 5th
2014 – The Telegraph is a daily morning broadsheet newspaper, published in London and distributed throughout the United Kingdom and internationally – “MH370: we won't give up search for Malaysia Airlines jet, governments pledge” – May 5th, 2014 – This was originally a Reuters report – http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/malaysia/10808532/MH370-we-wont-give-up-search-for-Malaysia-Airlines-jet-governments-pledge.html
No trace of Flight MH370 has been found since it vanished on a scheduled service from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8, despite the most intensive search in commercial aviation history. A majority of the 239 people on board were Chinese nationals. Experts have narrowed the search area where the plane is presumed to have crashed to a large arc of the Indian Ocean about 1,000 miles northwest of the west Australian city of Perth. But after weeks of scouring millions of square kilometres without finding any sign of debris, Australian authorities have called off the air and surface search. A new search phase costing around A$60 million (£33m) will begin after existing visual and sonar search datais analysed and a contractor is found to lease the sophisticated equipment needed, the officials said after meeting in Canberra. Financial responsibility is a major focus of the talks and Australian Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss seemed to open the door to Boeing, which produced the 777-200ER jet, and engine maker Rolls-Royce, to contribute financially. "They also have a vested interested in what happened on MH370 so they can be confident about the quality of their product, or take remedial action if there was some part of the aircraft that contributed to this accident," he told reporters. "So, I think we will be looking for increasing involvement from the manufacturers, and their host countries." Last week, Malaysia released its most comprehensive account yet of what happened to Flight MH370, detailing the route the plane probably took as it veered off course and the confusion that followed. The officials have said the new focus will be on 24,000 sq mile of seabed in the Indian Ocean that could take eight months or more to search. U.S. President Barack Obama had publicly promised to commit more assets, but government sources say the United States is keen to begin passing on the costs of providingthe expensive sonar equipmentthe officials say they are trying to source. The United States said over the weekend that it would only contribute its sophisticated Bluefin-21 underwater drone for one more month,placing pressure on Australia, China and Malaysia to find funding for the next phase of the search. "At the request of the Australian Government, the U.S. Navy will continue supporting theMH370subsurface search effort with the Bluefin-21 side scan sonar forapproximately 4 more weeks," U.S. Navy Commander William Marks of the 7th Fleet said. For now the search is on holdas the Ocean Shield, an Australian naval vessel carrying the drone, resupplies and conducts maintenance at a military base in Western Australia. The officials will meet again in Canberra on Wednesday, they said, where they will begin thrashing out the details of how to proceed and who precisely will shoulder the costs of doing so.
(Note to students: Bluefin or “Bluefin-21” is the name of an underwater drone. The US ended Bluefin searches for Flight 370 in late May. The Aff will argue that Bluefin searches have not only stopped – but that they weren’t suitable technology in the first place. Bluefin is designed to search at depths of 14,700 feet – which is not deep enough for this area of the Southern Indian Ocean. The US “pushed” Bluefin to go a little deeper – by some reports up to 18,000 feet. Technical problems ensued. Orion/CURV is designed to go 20,000 feet deep…. “Ocean Shield” – internally referenced – is the name of the Australian vessel that carries such equipment. In April, Australia assumed a lead role in the search).