The Hunt is on to Find Missing Indonesian Submarine Before Oxygen Runs Out

The Indonesian submarine KRI Nanggala (402) participates in a photo exercise in the Java Sea during Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) Indonesia 2015.

The Indonesian military is searching for their missing submarine, with 53 people on board. KRI Nanggala (402) lost contact during their military exercises on 21 April, 3:00 a.m local time. The vessel was operating 96 kilometers north of Bali when something happened.

Unfortunately, the prognosis suggests that something unpredicted happened. During their search from the air, an oil spill has been spotted in the area where the submarine’s last location is known and where it submerged during a live fire exercise. That trace might mean damage to the fuel tank or a signal of help from the crew.

Indonesian Navy does not exclude any kind of scenario. Military analysts Soleman Pono said it’s still too early to state the fate of the 44-years-old submarine. It’s possible that during the drill a malfunction of the electrical system occurred. KRI Nangalla has been designed to endure the pressure of 250 meters (820 feet) deep.

Last known location of KRI Nangalla, about 100 kilometers north of Bali. Satelitte image taken at the time of its last contact. Image: Zoom Earth, JMA/NOAA/CIRA, Himawari-8, RainViewer
Last known location of KRI Nangalla, about 100 kilometers north of Bali. Satelitte image taken at the time of its last contact. Image: Zoom Earth, JMA/NOAA/CIRA, Himawari-8, RainViewer

The official report says that the crew was doing their typical tasks, asked for permission to dive and that was the last message received – she still did not report back the results. Nothing except that is known for sure. However, the lack of further contact was more than enough to concern the controllers on land and start the search mission.

Three ships were immediately dispatched to the search team; KRI Doponegro (365), KRI Raden Eddy Martadinata (331), and KRI I Gusti Ngurah Rai (332). More joined the team later, along with the team of divers.

“It is possible that during the typical routine of diving a malfunction of power supply occurred, due to which the contact was lost and unable to conduct emergency procedures, and the vessel fell 600-700 meters (2,000-2,300 feet) deep” – says the Indonesian Navy. If the submarine reached that level, it’s highly possible it broke up.

KRI Nangalla (402) is a Cakra-class attack submarine, one out of two attack submarines that had been bought in the early 1980s from the German Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft group. She was laid in 1978, then launched a year later, and in 1982 commissioned for the Indonesian Navy. In 2012, the sub has finished its two-year-long major refit in South Korea.

KRI Cakra (401) Submarine
KRI Cakra (401) Submarine

National authorities have asked Singapur, Malaysia, India, and Australia to join the search of the lost submarine. All responded positively and are currently assisting.

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In addition, the United States, France, and Germany offered their help as well. It’s now a race against time as the KRI Nangalla will run out of oxygen on Saturday.

Damian Lucjan

Damian is a history geek that’s working for War History Online for almost a decade. He can talk about the history and its chain of events for hours and is 100% legit fun at parties. Aside of history, geography and etymology of all things are no less exciting for him! An avid video game player, meme distributor, and your comment section moderator all in one. Mythologies of all cultures are fascinating to him, Greek, Nordic, Slavic – you name it, and he’s in!

In his spare time, assuming he has some left, he gives it all to his family, enjoying morning walks, a good book, an exciting FPS, and a long nap…or a few. Definitely a cat person.