KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — The Australian Maritime Safety Authority says that a Royal New Zealand Air Force plane has spotted objects in the new search area for Flight MH370 that are closer to the Australian mainland but cautions that the sightings need to be confirmed by ship, expected to take place Saturday.
Earlier, Australian officials shifted their search for the missing Malaysian jetliner by nearly 700 miles, citing "a new credible lead'' about the path of the aircraft and where debris may be located.
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Martin Dolan, chief commissioner of the Australian Air Transport Safety Bureau, said a revised analysis of radar data prompted the agency to refocus the search in the Indian Ocean off Perth. The analysis indicates that the plane was flying faster than previously estimated between the South China Sea and the Strait of Malacca before radar contact was lost, Dolan said.
Based on that new speed data, analysts calculated increased fuel usage and a reduced distance the aircraft could have covered with power.
The new search area is approximately 198,000 square miles in size and 1,150 miles west of Perth, John Young, manager of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority's emergency response division said. The move, about 685 miles to the northeast of the previous search area, was based on updated advice from an international investigation team working with the search, Young said.
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The new location is also based on an assessment by Australian experts, the United States Coast Guard and commercial companies that took into account the weather and the drift any wreckage would be expected to have taken in the 21 days since the plane went missing.
Malaysia's Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said in Kuala Lumpur in his daily briefing Friday that the new search area is consistent with the objects that have been previously sighted by satellites. He said also said that while the search has moved closer to land the conditions are still difficult. However, the search area to the north is not expected to face the same rough weather that forced several delays in the hunt for debris further to the south.
All of these calculations are best estimates and, "will remain a somewhat inexact science," Dolan cautioned.
Young said the team had "moved on" from the previous search area and that the hunt for the missing plane was no longer active there.
Ten aircraft from six countries are being deployed to the new search area, Young said. Four of them are already in the vicinity and six more were expected to arrive later on Friday.
On Thursday, a Thai satellite detected about 300 objects floating in the Indian Ocean a day after a French satellite showed that 122 objects were floating near the search area for the missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner.
The son of missing Malaysia Airlines pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah says he's ignoring speculation about his father's role in the loss of Flight 370 and awaiting confirmation that it crashed.
Contributing: William Cummings in McLean, Va.; William M. Welch in Los Angeles; Associated Press