US joins frantic search for Indonesian submarine

Published April 24, 2021
Indonesian military officials set pictures of the missing submarine before a news briefing at an airport on Friday.—AP
Indonesian military officials set pictures of the missing submarine before a news briefing at an airport on Friday.—AP

BANYUWANGI: Rescue teams from a number of countries, including the United States, battled against time on Friday to find a missing Indonesian Navy submarine lost in the Bali Sea with 53 crew, which would be rapidly running out of oxygen if not already crushed by water pressure.

Search helicopters and more ships left Bali and a naval base in Java heading to the area where contact was lost with the 44-year-old KRI Nanggala-402 on Wednesday as it prepared to conduct a torpedo drill, with the head of the Indonesian submarine fleet aboard.

If the submarine was still intact, officials said it would only have enough air to last until around dawn on Saturday.

“So far we haven’t found it... but with the equipment available we should be able to find the location,” Achmad Riad, a spokesman for the Indonesian military, told a news conference.

The United States Australia, India, Malaysia and Singapore sent specialised ships or aircraft in response to Indonesian requests for assistance.

The US Defence Department said it had also decided to send “airborne assets” to assist in the submarine search.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi the “United States would do everything possible to support Indonesia’s search and rescue effort,” a spokeswoman said.

Two Australian Navy ships were heading for the search area including a frigate with special sonar capabilities, the defence department said.

Indonesia operates five submarines - two German-built Type 209s including Nanggala and three newer South Korean vessels

An Indonesian air force pilot said six tonnes of equipment had been flown to a base to help with the search including underwater balloons to help lift a vessel.

Indonesia’s navy said it was investigating whether the submarine lost power during a dive and could not carry out emergency procedures as it descended to a depth of 600-700 metres, well beyond its survivable limits.

An object with “high magnetic force” had been spotted “floating” at a depth of 50-100 metres, Indonesian Navy Chief of Staff Yudo Margono said, and an aerial search had earlier spotted an oil spill near the submarine’s last location.

The diesel-electric powered submarine could withstand a depth of up to 500 metres but anything more could be fatal, Navy spokesman Julius Widjojono said. The Bali Sea can reach depths of more than 1,500 metres.

Published in Dawn, April 24th, 2021

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