China is sending ships to help recover Indonesia’s lost sub and potentially study the area where it wrecked

indonesian submarine
The KRI Nanggala-402 submarine went off the grid during a training exercise near Bali, with 53 crew members on board.

  • China’s Defense Ministry says that the vessels will help efforts to recover the KRI Nanngala 402.
  • Indonesia expects three Chinese navy ships to join international efforts to salvage the lost sub.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

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.

Indonesian submarine KRI Nanggala-402 during a ceremony honoring the 72nd anniversary of the country's Armed Forces Day at Cilegon, Banten province, Indonesia
Indonesian submarine KRI Nanggala-402 during a 2017 ceremony.

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.

With no hope of finding survivors, Indonesia has said it will salvage the submarine, which was found in three pieces more than 800 metres below the surface.

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.”

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The apparent sinking of an Indonesian submarine with 53 people on board is among history’s worst submarine disasters

The Indonesian submarine KRI Nanggala 402
The Indonesian submarine KRI Nanggala 402

  • The Indonesian navy has declared that its missing submarine KRI Nanggala-402 is presumed sunk.
  • The submarine was carrying 53 passengers when it disappeared several days ago.
  • The apparent loss of the submarine and its crew puts this among the worst submarine disasters.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The apparent sinking of an Indonesian naval submarine and loss of dozens of lives this week puts the incident among some of the worst submarine catastrophes.

Indonesia’s diesel-powered submarine KRI Nanggala-402 disappeared during a training exercise Wednesday with 53 people on board. Indonesian and international search-and-rescue assets have been desperately looking for the submarine for days in hopes of finding it and saving the crew.

Indonesian submarine KRI Nanggala-402 during a ceremony honoring the 72nd anniversary of the country's Armed Forces Day at Cilegon, Banten province, Indonesia
Indonesian submarine KRI Nanggala-402 during a 2017 ceremony

What they found instead appears to be evidence of a worst-case scenario. Search-and-rescue teams found items, such as prayer rugs, a grease bottle, part of a coolant pipe, and a torpedo component believed to be from the submarine. These items would only be in the water if the sub had broken apart.

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.

The Indonesian navy has said it believes that the submarine, a 1,400-ton vessel made by Germany in the late 1970s and refitted in 2012, may have sunk to a depth of 2,000 feet, putting the vessel likely well past the point where the hull could withstand the crushing pressure of the water around it.

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.

Submarine ARA San Juan navigates for an expedition after the mid-life upgrade reparation at Tandanor shypyard on June 02, 2014 in Buenos Aires, Argentina
Submarine ARA San Juan navigates for an expedition after the mid-life upgrade reparation at Tandanor shipyard on June 02, 2014 in Buenos Aires, Argentina

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.”

The submarine was eventually found a year later at a depth of 3,000 feet in the South Atlantic.

361

In 2003, a Chinese diesel-electric submarine with hull number 361 suffered a serious mechanical malfunction during a training exercise that led to the deaths of 70 sailors. The crew is said to have suffocated, though details are limited.

This picture, dated March 1995, shows Russian submarine 'Kursk' at its base in Vidyayevo
This picture, dated March 1995, shows Russian submarine ‘Kursk’ at its base in Vidyayevo

K-141 Kursk

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.

Undated picture taken in St. Petersburg showing the nuclear-powered submarine Komsomolets
Undated picture taken in St. Petersburg showing the nuclear-powered submarine Komsomolets

K-278 Komsomolets

On April 7, 1989, the Soviet nuclear-powered attack submarine K-278 Komsomolets sank in the Norwegian Sea after a devastating fire broke out.

Forty-two of the submarine’s 69 crew members died in this accident. Some perished aboard the ship. Others that made it out died of exposure to the frigid waters before they could be rescued.

K-8

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 submarine 'Eurydice' in the harbor of Toulon, France, February 9, 1968
The submarine Eurydice in the harbor in Toulon, France on February 9, 1968.

Eurydice

On March 4, 1970, the French diesel-electric submarine was lost in the Mediterranean while diving off Cape Camarot. The French defense ministry assessed that the vessel sank along with its entire crew of 57 sailors after receiving reports of an explosion. Fuel and other debris were found floating on the surface.

USS Scorpion
USS Scorpion

USS Scorpion

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.

K-129

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.

Undated photo of the "Minerve", a "Daphne" class submersible during an exercise
Undated photo of the “Minerve”, a “Daphne” class submersible, during an exercise

Minerve

On January 27, 1968, the French diesel-electric submarine Minerve and its crew of 52 sailors disappeared in bad weather while returning to port.

The submarine was found in 2019 off the French port city of Toulon at 7,800 feet.

INS Dakar

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.

Nuclear-powered submarine the 'USS Thresher' steers through the sea, early 1960s.
The nuclear-powered submarine the USS Thresher steers through the sea in the early 1960s.

USS Thresher

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.

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Hopes of rescuing 53 sailors fade as missing submarine now believed to be ‘sunk’ after debris discovered, Indonesia Navy chief says

indonesian submarine
The Indonesian submarine with 53 people aboard is believed to have sunk about 60 miles off the northern coast of Bali Island after going missing on Wednesday.

  • Items have been discovered from the missing Indonesian submarine, incuding prayer rugs.
  • The submarine is now presumed to be ‘sunk’, Indonesia’s Navy Chief of Staff said.
  • Hopes of rescuing the 53 crew members who were on board have now faded.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Items have been discovered from the missing Indonesian submarine, Indonesia’s Navy Chief of Staff Admiral Yudo Margono said on Saturday.

Rescuers found a grease bottle, parts of a torpedo, and prayer rugs from the submarine, the Associated Press reported.

“With the authentic evidence we found believed to be from the submarine, we have now moved from the ‘sub miss’ phase to ‘sub sunk,'” Margon said during a press conference.

Hopes have now faded of rescuing the 53 crew members who were on board the submarine.

The submarine, the KRI Nanggala-402, disappeared without a trace on Wednesday off the island of Bali.

It went missing during a torpedo drill, a navy spokesperson told Insider.

Countries from around the world chipped in to help find the missing naval submarine,Insider’s Madison Hall wrote.

Time was running out to save the crew members as the vessel only had enough oxygen to last until Saturday, Insider’s Cheryl Teh reported on Thursday.

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The Indonesian navy says it found an unknown object with ‘strong magnetic resonance’ in search for its missing submarine, which has less than 24 hours of oxygen left

indonesian submarine
The KRI Nanggala-402 submarine went off the grid during a training exercise near Bali, with 53 crew members on board.

  • Indonesia’s KRI Nanggala 402 submarine vanished Wednesday morning near the island of Bali.
  • Rescuers found a submerged magnetic object and are trying to identify it, the navy said Friday.
  • There is only enough oxygen until 3 a.m. local time Saturday. 53 crew members were on board.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

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.

Since then, military vessels from the US, India, Australia, Malaysia, and Singapore have joined the search, with France, Germany, Russia, Turkey, and South Korea also offering help.

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.

indonesia submarine search
An Indonesian Search and Rescue vessel seen at Benoa Port in Denpasar, Bali, on April 21, 2021.

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.

“Anything more than that can be pretty fatal, dangerous,” he said, according to Reuters.

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.

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