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Sub Scanning Ocean Floor for Flight 370 Nears Midpoint of Search

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BEIJING — Authorities using a robotic submarine to look for wreckage of Malaysia Airlines flight 370 said Saturday they expect to complete the search of the “focused underwater area” in five to seven days.

Search For Missing Flight MH370 Shifts To Underwater Mission

In this handout image provided by Commonwealth of Australia, Department of Defence, Phoenix Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) Bluefin-21 is craned over the side of Australian Defence Vessel Ocean Shield in the search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH 370 on April 14, 2014. (Credit: LEUT Kelli Lunt/Australia Department of Defence/via Getty Images)

Shortly after officials decided Monday to deploy the U.S. Navy’s Bluefin-21 robotic sub in the Indian Ocean, Navy representatives said the mission could take six weeks to two months as the unmanned vehicle crawled over the seabed, using sonar to map an area about as big as the city of Los Angeles.

However, Australian authorities coordinating the search from a base in Perth said Saturday that the search area was now defined as a circle with a radius of 10 kilometers (6.2 miles). The circle is centered on the site where a pinger locator detected signals on April 8 from what authorities believe to be one of the plane’s black boxes. That means the focused search area is about 121 square miles, and authorities said the Bluefin has already searched more than 51 square miles.

The robotic submarine is operating at depths of 2.8 miles or slightly greater.

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