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Search for Missing Plane Costs US Military $11M

Bluefin 21

The cost to the U.S. military in the hunt for missing Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 has risen to $11.4 million and is now mostly driven by the operations of search planes, Pentagon officials said Thursday.

The costs included $3.6 million for the operation of the Bluefin-21 underwater search drone, $4.6 million for operations and maintenance of the ships and planes involved, and $3.2 million for personnel and humanitarian assistance, said Army Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman.

The Bluefin-21 was completing its 12th mission in the Indian Ocean about 1,000 miles northwest of Perth, Australia, and had covered about 90 percent of its assigned search area without finding a trace of the plane, Australian officials said.

There were no immediate plans to replace the Bluefin-21 with the Navy's Orion towed side scan sonar system if the Bluefin's mission was unsuccessful, Warren said.

A major cost for the U.S. now was in the operations of the two P-8 Poseidon surveillance plans that are still searching for a debris field off Australia at $4,200 per flight hour, Warren said.

Flight 370 went missing on March 8 while on a flight from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing with 227 passengers and 12 Malaysian crew members aboard. At the peak of the search for Boeing 777-200ER, at least 26 countries were involved in the hunt.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at richard.sisk@monster.com

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