JAKARTA: Indonesia’s navy is searching for a submarine that has gone missing with 53 people on board, the country’s military chief Hadi Tjahjanto said on Wednesday (Apr 21). 

An oil spill was found near the dive position at 7am, Western Indonesian time (8am, Singapore time) and two navy vessels with sonar capability have been deployed to assist in the search, said Indonesia’s Ministry of Defence. 

The submarine, KRI Nanggala 402, was taking part in a torpedo drill in north Bali waters but failed to relay results of the exercise as expected, said spokesman First Admiral Julius Widjojono.

“We are still searching in the waters of Bali, 96km from Bali, (for) 53 people,” Tjahjanto said. 

He added that contact with the vessel was lost at 4.30am on Wednesday.

A total of 49 crew members, one ship commander and three weapons specialists were on board the submarine, said the ministry. 

Several countries have responded and are “ready to provide assistance”, including Singapore, Australia and India, it added.

OIL SPILL FOUND THROUGH AERIAL SURVEILLANCE

The submarine had asked for permission to dive at 3am.

“After being granted a dive permit according to the procedure, the vessel lost contact and could not be contacted,” said the ministry. “A search was conducted by other ships involved in the exercise Task Force.” 

Members of National Search and Rescue Agency prepare for a search mission for the submarine

Members of the National Search and Rescue Agency (BASARNAS) prepare for a search mission for the Indonesian navy submarine KRI Nanggala at Benoa harbor in Bali, Indonesia on Apr 21, 2021. (AP Photo/Firdia Lisnawati)

Four hours later, an oil spill was found at the dive starting position through aerial surveillance.

“It is possible that during static diving, a blackout occurred so control was lost and emergency procedures cannot be carried out and the ship fell to a depth of 600-700m,” the Indonesian Navy said in a statement.

The submarine was built to sustain pressure at a maximum depth of around 250m, an official said.

The oil spill found on the surface could also mean there was damage to its fuel tank or could also be a signal from the crew, the navy said.

The military chief will hold a media briefing to share further information about the search on Thursday from Bali, a spokesman said.

BASARNAS prepare for a search mission for the submarine (2)

Members of the National Search and Rescue Agency (BASARNAS) prepare for a search mission for the Indonesian navy submarine KRI Nanggala at Benoa harbor in Bali, Indonesia on Apr 21, 2021. (AP Photo/Firdia Lisnawati)

Military analyst Soleman Ponto said it was too early to determine the fate of the submarine.

“We don’t know yet whether the communication equipments were broken or the submarine has sunken. We have to wait for at least three days,” he said.

According to information on a TNI website, the submarine was built in Germany in 1981. The TNI is the Indonesian national armed forces. The vessel underwent a two-year refit in South Korea that was completed in 2012. 

CNA has contacted Singapore’s Ministry of Defence for more information. ​​​​​​​

Indonesia in the past operated a fleet of 12 submarines purchased from the Soviet Union to patrol the waters of its sprawling archipelago.

But now it has a fleet of only five including two German-built Type 209 submarines and three newer South Korean vessels.

Indonesia has been seeking to upgrade its defence capabilities but some of its equipment still in service is old and there have been deadly accidents involving in particular ageing military transport planes in recent years.



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