JAKARTA, INDONESIA — The search for Indonesia’s navy submarine Nanggala-402, which went missing on 21 April, is still underway as the country’s Navy chief of staff earlier warned that rescuers will likely have only until Saturday to save all 53 sailors onboard before the oxygen runs out.
The German-built submarine lost contact in Bali waters during a torpedo drill at 03.00 am local time. Several foreign countries are sending their ships to provide assistance.
Singapore has sent its MV Swift Rescue to the Bali Straits to join search efforts for the Nanggala-402 vessel, adding that the deployment of the submarine rescue vessel was at Indonesia’s military request.
“The Republic of Singapore Navy’s MV Swift Rescue – our submarine rescue vessel – was dispatched expeditiously yesterday afternoon, as fast as she could get ready after our Navy Chief received a request for assistance from his Indonesian counterpart,” Singapore Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen said in a Facebook post.
Besides Singapore, other countries like Malaysia, the United States, South Korea, India, and Australia are sending their assistance to hunt for the sinking submarine. Malaysia’s Mega Bakti Rescue vessel will arrive on 26 Apr.
Why did the communications system go out?
Former U.S. Navy Dan Fugardi expressed his sympathy to all 53 sailors on board, adding that such a situation is not a good thing.
“Diesel-electric subs have a battery capacity that will last for days, so there would be no total loss of power for any normal reason. That means communication loss could mean one of the two things in my book: either the submarine has sunk into an obscure narrow crevice, where transmission (signals) is impaired, but with this type of search team, that’s still unlikely. …I really hate putting any negativity into the air, but the other scenario that I think is more likely, is a concussive event bad enough to destroy communications systems beyond repair, which could certainly happen from hitting the ocean floor, ” he told TOC in a Google Meets interview on 22 Apr.
Furthermore, Fugardi elaborated that a diesel-electric sub like the Nanggala-402 has a high-capacity battery that can last for many days.
“Unlike ours, diesel-electric submarines like Nanggala-402 has a high capacity battery that should be able to last for many days on a full battery, even with oxygen scrubbers, so hoping for some anomaly where there’s an unrelated problem with the communications systems, but I believe there would be an extreme edge case scenario,” he explained.
Former nuclear submarine commander Ryan Ramsey told The Sun that it is unlikely that the Nanggala would be found as it went down almost a mile deep.
“If something has happened it is very unlikely that the Nanggala-402 will be found,” he stated.
Intelligence and military expert Susaningtyas Kertopati said that the Nanggala-402 incident was the first of its kind in Indonesia.
However, the submarine may still be able to conduct a combat SAR, given that the vessel’s normal diving ability at the operational depth limit is 48 hours, with an extra 24 hours in an emergency situation, totaling 72 hours.
“Therefore, there is an opportunity for a combat SAR until the next 58-60 hours,” she told Liputan6 on 22 Apr.
Another military expert, Connie Rahakundini Bakrie stressed the importance of MRO — maintenance, repair and overhaul.
“A submarine is one of the means of transportation that is rarely affected by an accident. I am not going to defend anyone, but human error factors rarely happen,” she said in a TV interview, adding that the Nanggala-402 experienced a problem with its steering wheel last month.
The Nanggala-402 was repaired in Germany in 1989. It was later fixed in South Korea in 2012. The structure was replaced and upgraded to a mover system, sonar and weaponry.