'Credible' lead in search for missing jet

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott says there's a credible new lead in the search for the Malaysia Airlines jet, which went missing almost three weeks ago.

Mr Abbott has been briefed on new radar data analysis which has prompted authorities to shift the search area 1100 kilometres to the northeast, following updated advice from the international investigation team in Malaysia.

The search zone is now about 319,000sqkm and some 1850km west of Perth.

The analysis is of radar data between the South China Sea and the Strait of Malacca before contact with MH370 was lost.

"This is a credible new lead and will be thoroughly investigated," Mr Abbott said in a statement.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) said it indicated the aircraft was travelling faster than previously estimated, resulting in increased fuel usage and reducing the possible distance it travelled south into the Indian Ocean.

"The potential flight path may be the subject of further refinement as the international investigative team supporting the search continues their analysis," AMSA said in a statement.

The Australian Geospatial-Intelligence Organisation is re-tasking satellites to image the new area.

The search has been hampered by bad weather twice this week but conditions improved on Friday morning as search aircraft began departing from RAAF Base Pearce, near Perth, after 6am.

There are nine military aircraft, including two Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) P3 Orions, a Japanese Coast Guard jet, a Japanese P3 Orion, a Republic of Korea P3 Orion, a Republic of Korea C130 Hercules, a Royal New Zealand Air Force P3 Orion, a Chinese military Ilyushin IL-76, and a US Navy P8 Poseidon aircraft.

One civil aircraft will as a communications relay in the search area.

Another RAAF P3 Orion is on standby at Base Pearce.

Six vessels are heading to the new search area, including HMAS Success and five Chinese ships.

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