SYDNEY - The hunt for the missing Malaysian passenger jet in the Indian Ocean was put on hold Thursday after technical issues with a US Navy mini-submarine that require spare parts to be sent from Britain.
Australia's Joint Agency Coordination Agency (JACC), which is leading the search, revealed Wednesday that the Bluefin-21 submersible lasted only two hours in the water this week before it had to be raised.
The JACC blamed "communications problems" for the aborted mission and after a more thorough examination, announced that spare parts will be needed before the sophisticated mini-sub can be used again.
Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 vanished on March 8 with 239 people on board.
It is believed to have crashed far off Australia's west coast after mysteriously diverting from its Kuala Lumpur-Beijing route. No wreckage has been found, despite a massive international search operation.
The mini-sub had only arrived back in the remote southern Indian Ocean search zone on Tuesday following a port visit to Perth onboard the Australian vessel Ocean Shield.
The problems with the mini-sub mean Ocean Shield is once more steaming for land in order to pick up the spare parts, which are due to arrive in Australia on Sunday.
"Examination of the communications problem has established that a hardware defect exists in the transponder mounted on the Ocean Shield and a defect may also exist in the transponder mounted on the Bluefin-21," JACC said.
"This inhibits the ability of the two devices to communicate with each other.
"As a consequence, spare parts for both defects will be dispatched from the United Kingdom. The parts are expected to arrive in Western Australia on Sunday."