Ocean Shield has reacquired what is believed to be the black box pingers from Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 which went missing on March 8.
Joint Agency Co-Ordination Centre chief Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston announced that the Ocean Shield re-acquired the signals yesterday afternoon and held it for 5 minutes 32 seconds and again last night and held it for 7 minutes.
The Ocean Shield has acquired the signal four times since Saturday.
However Air Chief Marshal Houston said that while this was a “great lead” the search team needed to sight wreckage for absolute confirmation.
The next stage is to triangulate the fixes and then launch the Bluefin 21 autonomous underwater vehicle to scan the bottom which is 4500m deep.
“Hopefully in a matter of days we may be able to find wreckage on the bottom” said Air Chief Marshall Houston.
He said that they have no idea how far the debris may have travelled but the search area for debris is now “a more manageable 75000 square kms.”
The search for MH370 has intensified underwater and in the air yesterday.
An Australian P3 Orion is deploying in the search area listening devices that have a hydrophone that is tethered on 300m of cable and sends any signals back to the plane.
The towed pinger locator deployed by Ocean Shield is operated by a team from its maker Phoenix International.
General manager Jim Gibson said the team was cautiously optimistic about the pings picked up.
However, it was revealed the frequency detected was 33kHz, which is below the 37.5kHz the pingers are designed to emit.
This shift could be attributed to the ocean depth of 4500m, a failing battery or damage to the unit and is within the range of past experience with the beacons.
Ocean Shield also deployed runabouts with navy divers to investigate debris in the search area.
Adding to evidence the search is in the right area, Inmarsat told London’s Daily Telegraph that the signals Ocean Shield recorded were in the area where the Boeing 777 made its final electronic contact with a satellite at 8.19am on March 8.
AirlineRatings has learnt that a number of countries tracked MH370 across South-East Asia.
Sources in Singapore confirmed the plane flew around Indonesia, possibly to try to avoid military radar but was picked up by radar in several countries.
Sources suggest military intelligence had helped refine the flight plan calculations of the multinational search team.
On Monday Australia’s Defence Minister David Johnston said the multinational team was “flat out trying to enhance the leads and to deliver up something more tangible”.
Commenting on relationships between the multinational team, Senator Johnston said the co-operation was “absolutely first- class”.
“This is a herculean task, ” he said.
“We have at least several days of intense action ahead of us.
“We are throwing everything at this.”