Update: US joins race to find stricken Indonesia submarine

A military officer stands in front of a map of the search area for the missing Indonesian Navy submarine KRI Nanggala, at a command in Ngurah Rai Airport in Bali, Indonesia, 23 April 2021
An officer stands in front of a map of the search area for the KRI Nanggala 402

The US military is sending airborne assistance to aid Indonesia’s search for a missing submarine with 53 crew. Indonesian authorities estimate they have just hours left to find the navy submarine before the oxygen runs out.

The KRI Nanggala 402 disappeared on Wednesday during exercises off the coast of Bali, sparking a frantic search to locate the stricken vessel. An oil slick where it was thought to have submerged suggested damage to a fuel tank may have been a factor.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the US was “deeply saddened” by the turn of events. “Our thoughts are with the Indonesian sailors and their families,” Mr Kirby said in a statement. “At the invitation of the Indonesian government, we are sending airborne assets to assist in the search for the missing submarine.”

A KRI Nanggala-402 submarine performs an exercise in Surabaya, East Java, Indonesia, in 2014
Indonesia’s navy is racing to find the KRI Nanggala-402, pictured here in a file image

The Indonesian military said late on Thursday night that it had detected signs of an object at a depth of between 50 and 100 metres (165 to 330 feet), and had deployed ships with sonar-tracking equipment in the hope it was the KRI Nanggala 402.

“We’ve only got until 0300 tomorrow [Saturday] so we’re maximising all of our efforts today,” said Indonesian military spokesman Achmad Riad. “Hopefully there will be a bright spot.”

At least six warships, a helicopter and 400 people have since been involved in the search. Singapore and Malaysia have dispatched ships to the area, and Australia, France and Germany have also offered assistance.

The KRI Nanggala 402 lost contact shortly after requesting permission to dive during live torpedo exercises early on Wednesday morning. The German-built vessel is one of five submarines operated by Indonesia. It was made in the late 1970s, and underwent a two-year refit in South Korea that was completed in 2012.

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