Officials say the missing submarine’s air supply would only last until Saturday, as the search team detects “ high magnetic force ” at a depth of 50 to 100 meters.
Rescue planes and ships scoured the sea north of Bali in Indonesia as the search for a missing Indonesian submarine with 53 crew on board reached a critical stage due to limited oxygen supply aboard the 44-year-old ship.
Other navy ships left the Indonesian base at Banyuwangi early Friday for the Bali Sea where contact was lost with the KRI Nanggala-402 on Wednesday during a torpedo exercise.
“The main priority is the safety of the 53 crew members,” President Joko Widodo said Thursday evening, calling for a full effort to find the ship.
Helicopters also flew from Bali at first light.
Officials said the air supply to the submarine, which had been cleared for use and is reportedly in good condition, would only last until Saturday.
“Hopefully before they can be found there will be enough oxygen,” Yudo Margono, the naval chief of staff, said at a press conference.
Indonesian submarine fleet commander Harry Setiawan was one of four people on board who were not regular crew members, a military official said.
Although nothing conclusive has been found in the research so far, Yudo said an object with “high magnetic force” at a depth of 50 to 100 meters (164 to 328 feet) has been spotted. It was not known whether the object was suspended or on the seabed.
The diesel-electric submarine could withstand a depth of up to 500 meters (1,640 meters), but anything more could be fatal, a Navy spokesperson said. The Bali Sea can reach depths of over 1,500 meters (4,921 feet).
An aerial search also spotted an oil spill near the submarine’s dive location, which the Navy said could indicate damage to the ship or be a signal from the crew.
The 1,395-ton vessel was built in Germany in 1977 and joined the Indonesian fleet in 1981, according to the Defense Ministry. It underwent a two-year redevelopment in South Korea which was completed in 2012.
The Navy said a power outage may have occurred during the static dive, resulting in loss of control and preventing emergency procedures from being carried out.
Rescue teams in Indonesia have stepped up their search for a submarine with 53 sailors on board that went missing more than 24 hours ago. KRI Nanggala-402 was conducting a drill when it lost contact.
– Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) April 22, 2021
United States sends airborne resources
A number of countries have responded to requests for assistance from Indonesia, Australia, Malaysia, India, Singapore and the United States who have sent specialized vessels or aircraft.
The US Department of Defense is sending “airborne assets” to help find the submarines, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said on Twitter.
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin is due to meet with Indonesian Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto on Friday “to express our grief and discuss how the United States can be of assistance,” Kirby said.
Meanwhile, two Australian ships were heading towards the search area, including a support ship and a frigate with sonar capabilities, the Department of Defense said in a statement.
Indonesia has sought to modernize its defense capabilities, but some of its equipment is old and there have been fatal accidents in recent years.
In the past, Indonesia operated a fleet of 12 submarines purchased from the Soviet Union to patrol the waters of the sprawling archipelago.
It now operates five – the two German-built Type 209 submarines and three new South Korean ships.