* 10 ships, 10 aircraft scour ocean west of Perth
* China says will expand search area
* Undersea drone, black box detector head for search area
* Australia protocols give Malaysia control over
(Adds U.S. Navy official's comment on CBS)
By Matt Siegel and Rujun Shen
HMAS STIRLING NAVAL BASE, Australia/KUALA LUMPUR , March 30
T he search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight
MH370 could take years, U.S. Navy officials suggested
on Sunday, as search and rescue officials raced to locate the
plane's black box recorder days before its batteries are set to
Ten ships and as many aircraft are searching a massive area
in the Indian Ocean west of Perth, trying to find some trace of
the aircraft, which went missing more than three weeks ago and
is presumed to have crashed.
The chief of the China Maritime Search and Rescue Center, He
Jianzhong, told the Xinhua state news agency no objects linked
to the plane had been found on Sunday, and that Chinese vessels
would expand their search area.
Numerous objects have been spotted in the two days since
Australian authorities moved the search 1,100 km (685 miles)
after new analysis of radar and satellite data concluded the
Boeing 777 travelled faster and for a shorter distance
after vanishing from civilian radar screens on March 8. None has
been confirmed as coming from Flight MH370.
U.S. Navy Captain Mark Matthews, who is in charge of the
U.S. Towed Pinger Locator (TPL), told journalists at Stirling
Naval Base near Perth that the lack of information about where
the plane went down seriously hampers the ability to find it.
"Right now the search area is basically the size of the
Indian Ocean, which would take an untenable amount of time to
search," he said.
"If you compare this to Air France flight 447, we had much
better positional information of where that aircraft went into
the water," he said, referring to a plane that crashed in 2009
near Brazil and which took more than two years to find.
The U.S. Navy cannot use the pinger locator and other sonar
used to listen for the beacons on the aircraft's flight data and
cockpit voice recorders until "conclusive visual evidence" of
debris is found, U.S. Navy spokesman Commander William Marks
told CBS' "Face the Nation" programme.
If no location is found, searchers would have to use sonar
to slowly and methodically map the bottom of the ocean, he said.
"That is an incredibly long process to go through. It is
possible, but it could take quite a while," he said.
Among the vessels to join the search is an Australian
defence force ship, the Ocean Shield, that has been fitted with
a sophisticated U.S. black box locator and an underwater drone.
Australia, which is coordinating the search in the southern
Indian Ocean, said it had established a new body to oversee the
investigation and issued countries involved in the search a set
of protocols to abide by should any wreckage be found.
Malaysia says the plane, which disappeared less than an hour
into a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, was likely diverted
deliberately. Investigators have determined no apparent motive
or other red flags among the 227 passengers or the 12 crew.
WEATHER THREATENS EXPANDED SEARCH
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) said
aircraft from China, Australia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and
the United States were involved in the search on Sunday.
The search has involved unprecedented cooperation between
more than two dozen countries and 60 aircraft and ships but has
also been hampered by regional rivalries and an apparent
reluctance to share potentially crucial information due to
Asked if more resources could added to the international
effort, U.S. Navy spokesman Marks told CBS, "We have about as
many assets out there as we can. You have to wonder if the
debris is even out there. If we fly over something, we will see
This week, Australia issued a set of rules and guidelines to
all parties involved in the search, giving Malaysia authority
over the investigation of any debris to be conducted on
Australian soil, a spokeswoman at the Department of Foreign
Affairs and Trade told Reuters.
"Australia intends to bring the wreckage ashore at Perth and
hold it securely for the purposes of the Malaysian
investigation," the spokeswoman said.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Sunday appointed a
former chief of Australia's defence forces, Air Chief Marshal
Angus Houston, to lead a new Joint Agency Coordination Centre
The JACC will coordinate communication between all
international partners as well as with the families of
passengers, many of whom are expected to travel to Perth.
The Malaysian government has come under strong criticism
from China, home to more than 150 of the passengers, where
relatives of the missing have accused the government of "delays
On Sunday, dozens of angry relatives of Chinese passengers
from Beijing met with Chinese embassy officials in Kuala Lumpur,
piling more pressure on the Malaysian government over its
handling of the case.
"We arrived here this morning with sorrow and anxiety,
because the special envoy from Malaysia, the so called
high-level tech team, did not give us any effective information
in meetings that took place in three consecutive days," said
Jiang Hui, a relative of one of the victims.
"We want the Malaysian government to apologise for giving
out confusing information in the past week which caused the
delay in the search and rescue effort."
(Additional reporting by Morag MacKinnon and Michael Martina in
Perth, Lincoln Feast in Sydney, Paul Carsten and Xihao Jiang in
Beijing, Andrea Shalal in Washington; Editing by Dean Yates,
Jeremy Laurence and Frances Kerry)