Indonesia is looking for a submarine that may be too deep to help

Jakarta, Indonesia — A ship of the Indonesian Navy searched for a submarine on Thursday. The submarine may have sunk too much to be recovered, reducing the chances of survival for the 53 people on board. Officials said the submarine’s oxygen would be gone by early Saturday.

The diesel-powered KRI Nangala 402 was attending a training exercise when he missed a report call scheduled for Wednesday. Authorities reported an oil slick and diesel fuel odor about 60 miles north of Bali on the resort island near the start of the last dive, but there was no conclusive evidence that it was related to a submarine.

Admiral Yud Margono, Chief of Staff of the Indonesian Navy, told reporters at 3 am on Saturday, “I wish I could save them before they were out of oxygen.”

He said rescue teams found an unidentified object with high magnetic force at a depth of 50 to 100 meters (165 to 330 feet), and authorities wanted it to be a submarine.

The Navy believes that the submarine sank to a depth of 600-700 meters (2,000-2,300 feet), much deeper than the estimated collapse depth.

Ahn Guk-hyun, a South Korean Daewoo Shipbuilding Marine official who remodeled the ship from 2009 to 2012, said the submarine would collapse when it was deeper than about 200 meters (655 feet) due to pressure. His company has upgraded many of the submarine’s internal structures and systems, but he said there is a lack of recent information about the ship.

Frank Owen, secretary of the Australian Submarine Institute, also said submarines could be too deep for rescue teams to operate.

“Most rescue systems are actually only rated at about 600 meters (1,970 feet),” he said. “Because of the built-in safety margin in the design, it can be deeper, but the pumps and other systems associated with it may not be capable of operating. Therefore, they are that deep. You can survive, but it doesn’t always work. “

Former submarine Owen, who developed the Australian submarine rescue system, said Indonesian ships do not have rescue seats around escape hatches designed for underwater rescue. He said the rescue submarine would attach a so-called skirt to the rescue seat and make a waterproof connection to the disabled submarine so that the disabled submarine could open the hatch without being filled with water.

Owen said the submarine could be recovered from 500 meters (1,640 feet) undamaged, but it was unclear if the submarine exploded at 700 meters (2,300 feet).

In November 2017, an Argentine submarine went missing in the South Atlantic Ocean with a crew of 44. Almost a year earlier, the wreckage was found at a depth of 800 meters (2,625 feet). In 2019, a fire broke out on one of the Russian Navy’s deep-sea research submersibles, killing 14 sailors.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo urged everyone in the country to pray for the discovery of submarines and crew.

“Our top priority is the safety of the 53 crew,” Widodo said in a speech on television. “I can understand the feelings of the crew’s family and I am doing my best to save the entire crew.”

Epoch Times Photo
Indonesian Navy submarine KRI Nangala is participating in training off the coast of Cilegon, Indonesia, in a photo taken on Tuesday, October 3, 2017. (AP photo)

The military said more than 20 naval vessels, two submarines, and five aircraft were searching the area where the submarines were last found. A hydrological marine research vessel equipped with an underwater detection function was also heading to the site around the oil spill.

According to Margono, the oil slick may be due to cracks in the submarine’s tank after the submarine sank.

Neighboring countries are in a hurry to participate in complex operations.

Rescue vessels from Singapore and Malaysia will arrive between Saturday and Monday. Indonesian troops said Australia, the United States, Germany, France, Russia, India and Turkey are also providing assistance. South Korea also said it provided assistance.

“The news that the submarine has gone missing is of great concern,” Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said during his visit to New Zealand. “We will provide as much support as possible. There is no doubt that the search and rescue of submarines is very complex.”

Australian Defense Minister Peter Dutton called the incident a “terrible tragedy.” He told Sydney Radio 2GB that the fact that the submarine is “very deep in the ocean” “makes it very difficult to recover and locate.”

“Our enthusiastic prayers and hopes are directed to the KRI Nangala crew for their security and resilience,” Singapore’s Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen wrote on Facebook.

The Indonesian Navy said an electrical failure could have occurred during the dive, causing the submarine to lose control and fail to perform emergency procedures that would allow the submarine to resurface. It was a rehearsal for the missile launch exercise on Thursday, but it was eventually canceled.

According to the Indonesian Ministry of Defense, the German-made submarine, which has been commissioned in Indonesia since 1981, carried 49 crew members, its commander and three gunners. It was maintained and overhauled in Germany, Indonesia, and more recently South Korea.

According to ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems spokesman Jugenwitte, more than 60 of the Type 209 submarines have been sold and are used by 14 Marines worldwide.

Indonesia, the world’s largest archipelago with more than 17,000 islands, faces increasing challenges to recent maritime claims, including numerous incidents involving Chinese ships near the Natuna Islands.

Last year, President Widodo reaffirmed the country’s sovereignty when China visited the islands on the edge of the South China Sea, one of the busiest sea lanes involved in a territorial dispute with a small neighbor.

By Niniek Karmini