China is sending rescue vessels to help retrieve the Indonesian submarine that sunk with the loss of all 53 crew members.
Ren Guoqiang, a spokesman for the defence ministry, said late on Friday that the ships had been sent upon the invitation of Indonesian government and they were heading for the Lombok Strait to help recover the KRI Nanggala 402, which went missing last Wednesday when taking part in a torpedo drill.
Citing an unnamed Chinese submarine expert, the state-owned tabloid Global Times said the rescue mission could also help China “study the maritime military geography of the area where the submarine was wrecked, as well as expanding the international cooperation and influence of our navy in submarine rescue and salvage.”
While the statement did not give further details of the ships the Chinese military has sent, the Indonesian Navy Information Service said in a statement on Saturday that three Chinese salvage ships, including a Type 925 rescue ship Yongxingdao, were expected to reach the waters off Bali where the sub was lost within days and would join its counterparts from Indonesia, the US, Australia Malaysia, Singapore and India in the recovery efforts.
On Friday, Indonesian navy chief Yudo Margono said the local authorities were waiting for the arrival of two ships, including one from China, that are equipped to handle deep-sea salvage operations.
China has been building up its own submarine rescue fleet after one of its vessels sank during an exercise in the Yellow Sea in April 2003 with the loss of all 70 crew members – one of the Chinese military’s worst peacetime disasters.
There has been speculation that China may also send one of its most advanced Type 926 supply and rescue ships, the Liugongdao, which is currently with the South Sea Fleet, to Indonesia to help with the salvage operations.
The vessel is equipped with a British-made deep-submergence rescue vehicle and a remotely operated underwater vehicle that can operate at a depth of 1,000 metres, Global Times reported.
While China’s submarine rescue ships have taken part in international exercises in the past, it will be the first time it has taken place in an international recovery mission of this sort.
Song Zhongping, a former PLA instructor and military analyst, said the “highly challenging operation” could provide valuable experience for the future and would offer the opportunity to study the topography of the seabed that “would be beneficial to the navy.”
Together with the oil slick, a possible sign of a fuel tank rupture which was found early in the search near the point of the submarine’s final dive, the debris is evidence the submarine has sunk, the Indonesian navy said.
“With the authentic evidence we found believed to be from the submarine, we have now moved from the ‘sub miss’ phase to ‘sub sunk,'” Indonesian Navy Chief Yudo Margono said at a press conference Saturday. All passengers are presumed dead, the AP reported.
At this point, the submarine has likely run out of oxygen, as it was only equipped with about 72 hours of air, according to the Indonesian military.
Bryan Clark, a former US Navy submarine officer and current defense expert at the Hudson Institute, told Insider “if a small diesel submarine like this Indonesian one goes down in 2000 feet of water, it is unlikely to survive.”
As KRI Nanggala 402 has not yet been found, it is still not clear what exactly happened to the submarine, but if the vessel has indeed sunk with all 53 passengers, it would put this terrible tragedy among some of the worst submarine disasters.
ARA San Juan
On November 15, 2017, the Argentine Navy diesel-electric submarine ARA San Juan disappeared while on patrol with 44 crew members on board. The navy later determined that an anomalous noise detected shortly after the submarine’s last transmission was “consistent with an explosion.”
On August 12, 2000, the Russian nuclear-powered submarine K-141 Kursk vanished in the Barents Sea. Russian authorities later determined the vessel sank after a torpedo on board unexpectedly exploded. The first blast then triggered the explosion of several other warheads.
The Russian naval vessel went down with 118 sailors on board. Although twenty-three Russian sailors are believed to have survived the initial catastrophe, the Russian navy was not able to rescue them in time.
On April 7, 1989, the Soviet nuclear-powered attack submarine K-278 Komsomolets sank in the Norwegian Sea after a devastating fire broke out.
On April 8, 1970, a fire crippled the Soviet nuclear-powered submarine K-8, forcing the crew of 52 sailors to abandon the vessel. When a rescue ship arrived on scene, the crew returned to the submarine, but while the ship was under tow in the Bay of Biscay, it sank in rough seas with all hands lost.
The American nuclear-powered submarine USS Scorpion mysteriously vanished in the Atlantic Ocean with 99 sailors on May 22, 1968. No one knows exactly what happened to the Scorpion. It was found five months later 400 miles southwest of the Azores at a depth of 10,000 feet.
The Scorpion was one of four submarines that were weirdly lost in 1968.
On March 8, 1968, the Soviet diesel-electric ballistic missile submarine sank in the Pacific Ocean with 98 sailors on board. The US found the submarine six years later at 16,000 feet and covertly recovered part of the vessel.
On January 27, 1968, the French diesel-electric submarine Minerve and its crew of 52 sailors disappeared in bad weather while returning to port.
Just a few days prior to the sinking of the Minerve, the Israeli diesel-electric submarine INS Dakar inexplicably sank in the Mediterranean, resulting in the death of 69 sailors. The Israeli submarine was found in 1999 at 9,500 feet, but the exact cause of the disaster remains unknown.
On April 10, 1963, the US Navy experienced its most devastating submarine disaster when the nuclear-powered submarine USS Thresher sank in the Atlantic Ocean and imploded. All 129 American personnel on board were killed in the deadly accident.
Indonesia’s navy said on Friday that it had found an object emitting a “strong magnetic resonance” during the search for its missing submarine.
The navy dispatched search crews to find the KRI Nanggala 402 Wednesday morning after it missed a routine check-in following a torpedo drill that was being conducted near the island of Bali. Fifty-three people, more than the roughly three dozen people the sub was built to carry, were aboard.
On Friday, Indonesian navy chief of staff Adm. Yudo Margono said an object with “strong magnetic resonance” had been found at a depth of between 50 and 100 meters (164 to 328 feet,) the Associated Press reported.
The navy said that its Riguel warship, which is equipped with the high-tech sonar needed to identify the object, had been dispatched to the location, CNN reported.
Rescue crews previously found an oil slick on the surface of the ocean that the navy said could mean the submarine’s fuel tank had been breached.
Time is of the essence as the submarine only has enough oxygen to keep the crew alive until around 3 a.m. local time on Saturday, according to the navy. Jakarta time is 11 hours ahead of Eastern Time.
The submarine is believed to have sunk to a depth of between 600 and 700 meters (2,000 to 2,300 feet), the navy said, adding that it could be too deep to rescue.
Experts have warned that the submarine’s hull is at risk of collapse at that depth, and that the vessel is unlikely to survive.
Navy spokesman Julius Widjojono told a local TV network Thursday that the submarine could survive up to a maximum depth of 500 meters.
The cause of the disappearance is still unclear. The navy previously that a power outage may be to blame.
“It is possible that during static diving, a blackout occurred so control was lost and emergency procedures cannot be carried out and the ship fell to a depth of 600 to 700 meters,” the navy said in a statement published by Reuters.