Indonesia’s Navy submarine with 53 people on board went missing during a military exercise north of the resort island of Bali.
The country’s military chief, Hadi Tjahjanto, said on Wednesday that the KRI Nanggala 402 was participating in a training exercise when it missed a scheduled reporting call. The vessel is believed to have disappeared in waters about 60 miles (95km) north of Bali, he said.
Indonesia’s Navy is searching for a missing submarine and is seeking help from neighboring Australia and Singapore in the hunt, Indonesian authorities say.
The KRI Nanggala-402, a German-made submarine, lost contact during a torpedo drill in the Bali Strait — a stretch of water between the islands of Java and Bali that connects to the Indian Ocean and the Bali Sea.
The submarine asked for permission to dive, or submerge, at 3 a.m. local time (3 p.m. ET) before losing contact, it said. The statement added that an oil spill was seen in aerial surveillance near the dive point, around 7 a.m. local time.
The oil spill is “highly suspected” to have come from the vessel, Indonesian Navy spokesman Colonel Julius Widjojono told local media on Wednesday night.
He said the submarine has the capability to dive 500 meters below sea level, but added they now fear it went 200 meters below that depth. “Let’s pray for them so they can survive,” he said.
Earlier on Wednesday, military chief Hadi Tjahjanto told Reuters that they were “searching in the waters of Bali, 60 miles (96 km) from Bali, (for) 53 people.”
There are 53 crew members are aboard the submarine, which typically has a complement of 34 personnel, according to the 1993 edition of Combat Fleets of the World. It’s unclear why such a significant number of additional individuals were on board for this exercise.
The Cakra class boats are armed with eight 533mm bow tubes that are used to launch AEG SUT heavyweight torpedoes, up to 14 of which can be carried. While the torpedo training drill has been described as a ‘live fire’ exercise, it’s unclear if the torpedoes used were fitted with live warheads.
A search effort is now underway to locate it. Several Indonesian Navy vessels have been noted in the vicinity of the area and Indonesian officials have also called upon Australia and Singapore to assist — both the Republic of Singapore Navy and the Royal Australian Navy operate specialist submarine rescue vessels.
Among the Indonesian Navy vessels on the scene, according to reports, are the hydrographic ship Rigel, the first-in-class corvette Fatahillah, the first-in-class corvette Bung Tomo, and the Kapitan Pattimura class corvette Teuku Umar. Other accounts state that another two Indonesian submarines, plus aircraft, have been committed to the search, as well as the Spica, the sister vessel to the Rigel.
Several countries, including Australia, India and Singapore have offered to provide assistance.
Singapore has sent the rescue ship MV Swift Rescue to help the search, as part of a joint agreement between the two countries covering the submarine rescue. The Swift Rescue is a specialized submarine support and rescue vessel (SSRV) operated by the Republic of Singapore Navy. It is equipped with a deep-submergence rescue vehicle (DSRV) to retrieve crew from stricken submarines.
The 1,395-ton KRI Nanggala-402 was built in 1977 by the German shipbuilding company Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft (HDW) and joined the ranks of the Indonesian Navy in 1981, according to the Ministry of Defense statement.
The submarine underwent a two-year refit in South Korea that was completed in 2012, according to the Indonesian cabinet secretariat’s website.