More Details:An Indonesian Submarine Is Missing With 53 People Aboard
The sub, which disappeared off the coast of Bali, may be too deep for rescuers to retrieve.
By Kyle Mizokami
Apr 22, 2021
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- An Indonesian Navy submarine is missing off the coast of Bali.
- The Nanggala is a 44-year-old German-made attack submarine.
- Search-and-rescue teams spotted an oil slick in the area where the sub went missing.
The search is on for a missing Indonesian Navy submarine, which the service declared overdue after it failed to check in following a torpedo-launching exercise on Wednesday.
The sub, KRI Nanggala-402, last appeared off the island of Bali in the Bali Sea and reportedly has 53 sailors aboard. An international force of rescue ships and aircraft are converging on the island, and U.S. Navy submarine rescue units could also arrive at the scene.
The Indonesian Navy declared the submarine missing as of 4:30 a.m. local time on Wednesday. According to CNN, the Nanggala lost contact shortly after the Indonesian Navy gave it permission to dive at 3:00 a.m. The Nanggala was in the Bali Strait, a narrow waterway between the islands of Java and Bali. Here’s the Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) notifying civilian aviators of the torpedo exercise:
Aerial searchers discovered an oil slick on the ocean in the vicinity of the sub’s last known location at 7 a.m. on Wednesday.
An Indonesian Navy spokesman said the submarine could dive up to 500 meters below sea level, but his government feared the sub had gone an additional 200 meters deeper, per CNN. According to the authoritative Combat Fleets of the World, Nanggala has a maximum operating depth of 250 meters, and a “crush depth” of 500 meters. The submarine’s hull would likely fail beyond that depth.
Indonesian military aircraft and ships were reportedly combing the area where the submarine went missing. The country has also asked India, Singapore, and Australia to help find the sub. Singapore’s submarine support and rescue vessel MV Swift immediately went to sea from the country’s Changi Naval Base and is headed east to the search area. Indonesia reportedly has submarine rescue support agreements with Singapore, Australia, India, South Korea, the U.S., and Vietnam.
The U.S. maintains one of the most capable submarine rescue forces in the world. In 2017, the Pentagon sent over 200 search-and-rescue personnel, four submersibles, one specialized underwater rescue unit, and one ship to help find the lost Argentine Navy submarine ARA San Juan. U.S. searchers also dropped more than 400 sonar buoys in search of the sub.
However, the approximate location of the missing Indonesian submarine is 13,000 miles from the U.S. west coast, and American forces would have to ship rescue teams and equipment on Air Force transports to arrive in a timely manner.
In a 2016 submarine rescue exercise, the Nanggala’s crew received Submarine Escape Immersion Equipment (SEIE) MK-10 suits. The suits protect sailors from “water pressure, providing protection from decompression sickness, hypothermia, and extreme climate change,” according to Indomiliter. The U.S. Navy and Royal Navy also reportedly wear the suits.
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An Indonesian military commando rappels from a helicopter to a submarine during an exercise at a naval base in Cilegon, West Java province on October 3, 2015.
ROMEO GACADGetty Images
The Nanggala is a German-built Type 209-class destroyer. Widely built for navies around the world, the Type 209-class subs displace 1,395 tons underwater, have a length of 193 feet, and can do 21.5 knots submerged. The submarines are equipped with eight 533-millimeter bow-mounted torpedo tubes and can stay up to 50 days at sea. Nanggala went through a 2-year retrofit in South Korea that concluded in 2012.
Nanggala and her sister ship Cakra have normal crew complements of six officers and 28 enlisted men each, for a total crew of 24. Indonesia says there were 53 aboard the Nanggala when it went down. The additional passengers may have been civilian contractors or Navy personnel present for the torpedo-firing exercise.
The Nanggala is the second submarine lost worldwide in 4 years. In 2017, the Argentine Navy submarine ARA San Juan went missing off the coast of Argentina, and rescue teams found it one year later. The ship was lost with all hands. In 2019, the Russian Navy deep-diving submarine Losharik suffered a catastrophic fire that killed 14 naval personnel.