Australian authorities believe newly examined data by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) has confirmed the area where missing flight MH370 now rests.

The new data analysis shows the plane may lie in a 700km zone at the southern end of the Indian Ocean search strip.

The narrowed search area provides yet another small glimmer of hope for the families of the 239 passengers who disappeared with the plane, en-route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur in March 2014.

Officials are confident the wreckage will be found.

Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss told reporters in Canberra that a fleet of ships had examined more than 75,000 square kilometres of the search area, with the remaining area estimated to take another six months.

“There is around 44,000 square kilometres yet to be searched in this new priority area, and we’re optimistic and hopeful that search will result in us locating the aircraft,” he said.

However the future looks bleak if authorities cannot locate the aircraft in the given time period.

“We’ve made no commitments beyond that,” Truss said.

Two sea vessels scoured the region over the winter months and were joined by a third this week. China will also supply a fourth ship to boost the operation in January at a cost of AU$20 million.

The ATSB and its combined forces will then focus its search on the final quarter of the Indian Ocean zone in the New Year.

The final search will cover areas previously unexplored and have authorities retrace almost 44 per cent of uncertain areas already scanned.

“We need to go back and be absolutely certain that they are in fact just geographic features or something else and to positively rule them out,” Truss said.

“This stage of the search is absolutely critical.”

State of the art equipment will be placed in areas expected to contain clues so the search can be concluded as quickly as possible.

Searching the Indian Ocean has been a continual struggle since the plane’s disappearance last year, costing more than 20 countries almost $180 million.

Malaysia has promised to cover the remaining costs after it was found that Australia had contributed nearly $60 million to the search.

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