Australia has been enlisted by Indonesia to help in the desperate search for a missing military submarine with 53 sailors on board.
The German-made KRI Nanggala-402, was conducting a torpedo drill in waters about 96 kilometres north of the island of Bali on Wednesday, but failed to relay the results as expected, a navy spokesman said.
Officials fear the vessel sank to the bottom of a trough with a depth of 2,300ft during the torpedo military exercise. The navy has deployed a number of warships to search for the missing crew.
‘After permission was given according to the procedure, the submarine lost contact and could not be reached,’ Indonesia’s Defence Ministry said.
The ministry confirmed Australia has responded to requests for assistance, along with Singapore and India.
An aerial search by a helicopter later found an oil spill in waters where the submarine was thought to have submerged. The navy deployed two vessels with sonar capability to assist the hunt, the ministry said.
The search continues for a missing Indonesian submarine. Pictured is a a search and rescue ship involved in the search on Wednesday night
The German-made submarine, KRI Nanggala-402 (file photo of the submarine), has gone missing with 53 people on board
The navy requested help from other nations with submarine rescue vessels and Australia, Singapore and India have responded, the ministry said in a statement.
Foreign Minister Marise Payne said Australia would provide assistance in whatever way possible.
‘We are obviously very concerned about these reports. It’s very distressing for families and particularly for the Indonesian Navy,’ she told AM.
‘We’ve indicated that we will help in any way we can. We operate very different submarines from this one, but the Australian Defence Force and Australian Defence organisation will work with defence operations in Indonesia to determine what we may be able to do.
Australia has responded to Indonesia’s request for help in the search mission (pictured Wednesday night)
The submarine was conducting a torpedo drill in waters about 96 kilometres north of the island of Bali
‘We will go to the support of our neighbour in any way we can.’
Independent Australian senator Rex Patrick, who is a former submariner, said it was a ‘chilling reminder’ of how dangerous submarine service can be.
‘You never know what can eventuate in these situations. I wish our Indonesian friends the very best in their endeavours to quickly find the submarine and I know that the RAN and RAAF will offer all available support in assisting the Indonesian Navy,’ Senator Patrick said.
TNI Commander Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto said contact with the submarine was lost at around 4.30am local time on Wednesday morning.
The Indonesian navy spent Wednesday night searching for the KRI Nanggala submarine that went missing north of the resort island of Bali with a number of people on board
‘We are still searching in the waters of Bali, 60 miles from Bali, (for) 53 people,’ military chief Hadi Tjahjanto told Reuters in a text message.
Missing Naggala 402
Age: 44 years after being built in 1977
Top speed: 25 knots (46 km/hr)
Range: 8,200 nautical miles (15,200 km)
Maximum diving depth: 843ft
Weight: 1,395 tons
Length: 65 yards
Fuel: Powered by four electric deisel engines
Armaments: 14 torpedos located in eight tubes. It is also equipped with a CSU-3-2 suite type sonar
Built in: Lübeck, Germany
He added: ‘Tomorrow I will immediately go to the location.’
Military analyst Soleman Ponto said it is too early to determine the fate of the submarine conclusively.
‘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.
The 1,395-tonne KRI Nanggala-402 was built in Germany in 1977, according to the defense ministry, and joined Indonesian fleet in 1981. It underwent a two-year refit in South Korea that was completed in 2012.
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 modernise its defence capabilities but some of its equipment still in service is old and there have been deadly accidents in recent years.
In 2016, an Indonesian air force transport plane crashed into a mountain, killing all 13 people board, during a training exercise in the remote region of Papua.
In 2015, an Indonesian military transport plane crashed into a northern residential area two minutes after takeoff, killing more than 100 people.
An aerial search by a helicopter found an oil spill in waters where the submarine (file photo) was thought to have submerged
While the Southeast Asian archipelago has not previously suffered a major submarine disaster, other countries have been struck by accidents in the past.
Among them was the horrific sinking in 2000 of the Kursk, the pride of Russia’s Northern Fleet.
The submarine was on manoeuvres in the Barents Sea on August 12, 2000 when it sank with the loss of all 118 aboard. An inquiry found a torpedo had exploded, detonating all the others.
In 2018, authorities found the wreckage of a missing Argentine submarine that had gone missing a year earlier.
Crushed from an implosion, the ARA San Juan was located at a depth of more than 900 metres (3,000 feet) in a desolate area of undersea craters and canyons 400 kilometres (250 miles) off the coast of Argentina.
The accident took the lives of 44 sailors.
Then, in 2019, a French submarine that went missing in the western Mediterranean over 50 years ago was found.
The diesel-electric Minerve submarine was lost off France’s southern coast with 52 sailors on board on January 27, 1968.
The Minerve was on a training mission in bad weather when it went down while returning to its base in Toulon, France’s main Mediterranean naval port.
Experts have speculated that the disaster was caused by a problem with the Minerve’s rudder, a collision with another boat, the explosion of a missile or torpedo, or a fault with its oxygen supply systems.
The hunt for Nanggala-402: Rescuers prepare to set off from Bali on a search mission with 53 submarine crew members missing