Indonesia Launches Search for Missing Submarine

The sub Nanggala (hull number 402) in the Java Sea, 2015 (USN)

Published Apr 21, 2021 6:26 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Indonesian Navy submarine KRI Nanggala went missing during a drill off Bali early on Wednesday, according to Indonesia's defense ministry. An active search is under way and signs of a spill have been located in the vicinity of the sub's last known position, raising concerns that it may have been lost. 

At the time that the sub lost contact, it had just received permission to dive, according to the ministry of defense's public relations bureau. It was scheduled to conduct a weapons exercise shooting torpedoes in the Bali Strait, the waterway between Java and Bali. 

The sub went missing at 0300 hours local time, and at 0700, an aerial search team spotted signs of an oil spill near the location of the dive. Indonesian Navy spokesman Col. Julius Widjojono told local media that the slick is "highly suspected" to have come from the sub. If the vessel had sustained a mechanical casualty and gone down to the bottom, he said, it would come to a rest at least 200 meters below its rated 500-meter maximum pressure depth. 

53 people are on board the vessel, and Indonesia's armed forces are conducting an active search in hopes of carrying out a rescue. Two warships are sweeping the area with sidescan sonar, and the International Submarine Escape and Rescue Liaison Office (ISMERLO) - a global body that coordinates aid in the event of a serious sub casualty - is providing assistance.

"All ships belonging to the [armed forces] that have the ability to search for objects under the surface of the water we [will] mobilize," said TNI commander Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto, speaking to Detik News.

KRI Nanggala is a Type 209 diesel-electric attack sub, one of many built by Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft (now ThyssenKrupp) in Kiel between the 1970s and the mid-2000s. The highly successful class was developed specifically for export, and more than 60 were built and sold to 13 nations, including two for Indonesia. 

KRI Nanggala was delivered in 1981, and she underwent an overhaul and modernization period at DSME in 2012.