Fight the clock in Indonesia to find the lost submarine


Fight the clock in Indonesia to find the lost submarine

The Navy is looking for signs of the ‘KRI Nanggala 402’, which would have fallen to a depth of 700 meters and whose 53 occupants would only have a few hours of oxygen

Indonesian submarine that is lost, in a file image./Reuters

The passing of the hours in Indonesia has turned into an agonizing countdown that consumes the hopes of finding the 53 occupants of ‘Kri Nanggala 402’ alive. The ghosts of the ‘Kursk’ tragedy have returned with force as the possibilities of locating the submarine in time are increasingly remote, of which there is no news since it was submerged in the waters north of Bali at dawn on Wednesday to do a torpedo drill.

Six Indonesian Navy ships and a helicopter are working against the clock to try to find the whereabouts of the submarine, whose contact was completely lost 25 minutes after requesting authorization to carry out the maneuver. The ‘Kri Nanggala 402’, of 1,395 tons and manufactured in Germany 44 years ago, is feared that it could have fallen “to a depth of 700 meters”, according to a statement from the Navy. The most likely hypothesis the researchers are working on is that it suffered an electrical failure. The blackout would have caused control to be lost and emergency procedures could not be carried out.

After a day of unsuccessful search, in which not a single sign of the submersible was detected, the president, Joko Widodo, appeared before the media to make it clear that the “top priority” is the people on board. Not in vain, as the chief of staff of the Indonesian Navy, Yudo Margono, indicated yesterday, “the oxygen reserves will be depleted in 72 hours.” That is, they barely have the margin until Friday to rescue the 53 occupants: a captain, three weapons experts and 49 crew members.

Pessimism, however, was gaining ground after it was learned that the ‘Kri Nanggala 402’ could withstand a depth of up to 250-500 meters. “Anything more than that can be quite fatal, dangerous,” Navy spokesman Julius Widjojono said. Hence, expert voices, such as that of the French Vice Admiral Antoine Beausssant, warned that “if it has landed at 700 meters, there is a good chance that it has broken.” Along the same lines, the Australian Defense Minister, Peter Dutton, assured that the reports make one fear “a terrible tragedy.” His compatriot Frank Owen, head of the Submarine Institute, added that “if the sub is at such depth, there are very few means to get the crew out of there.”

Fears that a fatal outcome could have occurred were heightened by the discovery on Wednesday of a large oil slick in the same area where the submarine had sent its last signal four hours earlier. The Indonesian authorities interpreted the finding as evidence of damage to the reserves of the submersible, which is diesel-powered, but runs on electric batteries. However, they did not completely rule out that it could also be a way of sending the crew a distress message. The head of the Navy indicated that a piece with “high magnetic force” at a depth of 50 to 100 meters that could belong to the ‘Kri Nanggala 402’ has also been detected in the place.

It is exactly at this point where the search operations are concentrated, which are carried out in calm weather conditions and in the next few hours will have the help of neighboring countries. Singapore has dispatched its ‘MV Swift Rescue’ rescue vessel to the area, which will arrive tomorrow. In turn, Malaysia prepares various ships and medical equipment, if necessary. The United States, Australia, India, France and Germany have also reached out to help with whatever is required.

Remodeled in 2012

The ‘Kri Nanggala 402’, which underwent a two-year overhaul in South Korea that was completed in 2012, was in top condition. This is how the Indonesian Navy chief defended it on Thursday against some criticism that arose around the fact that some of the country’s military equipment is old and there have been fatal accidents in recent times. The submarine had received a letter of viability. He was ready for battle, ”Yudo said.

Although Indonesia has so far suffered no serious incidents related to its submersibles, there have been several such tragedies that have shaken the world. The best known occurred in 2000, when the Russian nuclear submarine ‘Kursk’ suffered two explosions while doing maneuvers in the Barents Sea with 118 crew members on board. More recently, in 2017, another deflagration killed the 44 occupants of the ‘ARA San Juan’, of the Argentine Navy.


Armed Forces, Indonesia