Home Asia Pacific US, Australia join search for missing Indonesian sub as effort turns critical

US, Australia join search for missing Indonesian sub as effort turns critical

Poseidon P-8A flying low over the Mediterranean
US Navy file photo of a specialized submarine-hunting Poseidon P-8A maritime patrol aircraft

The navies of Australia and the US have deployed assets in support of the search efforts for the Indonesian submarine Nanggala 402, which was reported missing on April 21.

The US is sending airborne assistance while the Australian defense department said it had sent a frigate with an embarked MH-60R helicopter and a tanker to Indonesia. While both Australian ships are in Southeast Asia, frigate HMAS Ballarat was able to reach the area on Friday, while the tanker would need at least four more days to reach the search and rescue area.

Indonesian submarine KRI Nanggala went missing with 53 crew on board while rehearsing for a naval exercise in North Bali in the early morning hours of April 21.

KRI Nanggala
US Navy file photo of KRI Nanggala

While there are fears that the disappearance could have been caused by an explosion of one of the torpedoes, officials are continuing the search approximately 25 miles north of Bali in hopes that the submarine sank to the ocean floor due to a technical defect.

The efforts to locate the submarine, which could be sitting at a depth of up to 700 meters, are reaching a critical point as estimates say the oxygen supply on board the submarine can last until 3:00 am on Saturday, local time.

Australian and US assets are joining Singapore, Malaysia and India, who have already sent specialized rescue vessels to Indonesia.

In addition to international help, Indonesia has 21 warships, a submarine and other police and coast guard vessels searching for the submarine.

In a press conference on Friday, Indonesian officials said one of the ships taking part in the search had detected an object with “strong magnetic resonance” at a depth of 50 to 100 meters near the spot where an oil slick was detected shortly after the submarine’s disappearance.

The situation in Indonesia is similar to the November 2017 disappearance of Argentine Navy submarine ARA San Juan in the South Atlantic. The submarine was found a year later at a depth of 907 meters 290 miles off Comodoro Rivadavia.