The defence department has started an investigation to find the last two Australian servicemen missing from the Vietnam conflict.

Flying Officer Michael Herbert and Pilot Officer Robert Carver were returning to base when their Canberra bomber disappeared about 65km south-west of Da Nang, South Vietnam, on November 3, 1970.

Defence science and personnel minister Warren Snowdonon Thursday said “every possible avenue” should be explored to find the men’s remains.

He said an inquiry conducted in late 1970 was inconclusive.

A new search will be led by the Army History Unit.

In the past two years, the bodies of four other Australian soldiers lost during the Vietnam conflict have been recovered.

Snowdon said the history unit had developed a strong relationship with appropriate Vietnamese government agencies to locate, recover and repatriate the remains of missing Australian soldiers.

“This investigation will draw on information from sources in Australia, Vietnam, the United States and other countries,” he said.

Snowdon said accounting for the two airmen would be challenging as the potential search area was large.

The air operations division of the Defence Science and Technology Organisation was providing crucial support by analysing potential trajectories of the lost aircraft, based on its last known position and likely altitude and airspeed, he said.

“Their expertise and modelling work will refine and prioritise the search area,” he said.