Experts say the SAS system is more accurate than the traditional sonar that has been used to scan the area so far

Advanced sonar ship joins hunt for MH370 wreckage

A Chinese ship equipped with state-of-the-art sonar equipment will join the search for missing Malaysia Airlines plane Flight MH370.

Flight 370 and its 239 passengers and crew disappeared on 8 March 2014 on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

Officials believe it crashed in the southern Indian Ocean, almost certainly killing everyone aboard, but the wreckage and the cause have so far remained elusive, despite a vast search led by Australia.

The Dong Hai Jiu 101 ship will leave Singapore on Sunday to begin its search across a 46,000 square-mile expanse of deep seabed which it expects to complete by late February.

A Synthetic Aperture Sonar (SAS) system is installed on the ship which some experts say is more accurate than standard 75kHz side-scan sonar devices that have been used to scan most of the area searched so far.

With standard acoustic sonar, the image becomes less clear the further a seabed object is from the equipment. However, with SAS, the image remains sharp regardless of an object's distance.

The Chinese first offered use of the vessel in November and at the time estimated that its contribution to the search amounted to $14.2m (£9.9m).

The ship will join two Fugro ships, Furgo Discovery and Furgo Equator, which will continue to search with standard sonar equipment.

The Fugro Discovery lost its sonar unit plus 14,800 feet of cable at the weekend when the ship towed the equipment into an underwater volcano.

A fourth ship, Havila Harmony, is equipped with a manoeuvrable deep-sea drone that has been fitted with a camera and high-resolution sonar for searching difficult terrain and for taking a closer look at potential clues. The drone was also recently damaged when it struck a fish net but has been repaired.

Earlier in the week aviation experts and Thai officials debunked theories that a piece of suspected plane wreckage found off the east coast of southern Thailand over the weekend was a part of the missing plane.

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