Australia, China and Malaysia today held trilateral talks to map out the next steps in the search for the missing Malaysian jet with officials saying it may take up to two months before new and more sophisticated sonar equipment is deployed in the hunt.
Australian Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss and head of the search operation Angus Houston met Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein and Chinese Transport Minister Yang Chuantang here to chart out the future course of action in the underwater search, which will focus on a 60,000 square kilometre patch of Indian Ocean seabed.
Truss admitted the hunt for the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 that has been on for almost two months will take time with the seabed in the prospective search zone several kilometres deep and largely unmapped.
He said a tender process would be started soon to acquire new and more advanced equipment to scour the seabed.
"We are optimistic that we can do most of this in the space of one to two months so we will actually have more hardware in the water within a couple of months," he said.
"In the interim we'll still have the Bluefin-21 working and we'll get going on the oceanographic work that needs to be done so they'll be no long interruptions in this search," Truss said.
Houston said it was "sensible" to take stock of the situation and analyse the data gathered after scouring more than 4.6 million square kilometres of the ocean to make sure the deductions and conclusions in the search are right.
The data gathered so far will be re-analysed and all the information assessed starting Wednesday.
"We've got to this stage of the process where it's very sensible to go back and have a look at all of the data that has been gathered, all of the analysis that has been done and make sure there's no flaws in it, the assumptions are right, the analysis is right and the deductions and conclusions are right," Houston said.
Truss stressed that detailed mapping of the seafloor will be a key focus of the next phase of the search. It is not known how deep the water in the search area is.
"I don't know that anyone knows for sure, because it's never been mapped," Truss said of the depth of water.
He said he had "no idea" about when the plane wreckage would be found.
"So far our very, very best leads, and on days when we were quite confident that it was going to be the day, have all proved fruitless so it would be unduly optimistic to name a day or time," he said.
The Beijing-bound Boeing 777-200 plane - carrying 239 people, including five Indians, an Indo-Canadian and 154 Chinese nationals - had mysteriously vanished on March 8 after taking off from Kuala Lumpur.