French authorities are to carry out a broader search operation in the vicinity of Reunion following the discovery of debris strongly suspected to have originated from the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.
The ministry of defence says that an operation co-ordinated by FAZSOI, the armed forces of the southern Indian Ocean, is due to begin on 7 August.
It will involve overflights by a CASA aircraft, the ministry adds, part of a deployment of additional air and sea resources to “detect the possible presence of new debris”.
The response has been requested by the French president and prime minister, after initial examination of the component found in the Saint Andre region of Reunion indicated a high probability that it was a flight-control surface from the missing Boeing 777-200ER.
“Further analysis of this piece is currently underway,” the ministry says.
Supplementing the operation will be foot patrols as well as maritime and helicopter searches. Every finding will be “immediately” handed to the inquiry, the ministry adds.
“France will play its full role in the international effort, ensuring the provision of necessary resources to help shed light on this tragedy,” it says.
Although Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak formally declared on 5 August that the debris had been traced to MH370, French authorities were more cautious during a briefing on the situation held on the same day.
French deputy prosecutor Serge Mackowiak stated that there were two reasons for the “very strong presumption” that the component had been part of the missing flight.
Boeing had confirmed that the debris formed part of the flaperon flight-control system on a 777, he said. But Malaysia Airlines had also supplied technical documentation for the specific aircraft operating MH370 which had enabled specialists to “make a connection” between the debris and the flaperon on the missing jet.
Investigators have not detailed the precise nature of the technical characteristics used to establish this link but further analysis is being conducted to put it beyond doubt.