Sailors in a missing Indonesian submarine have sufficient oxygen to last until Saturday, aboard a vessel in good condition, the country’s defence chiefs said on Thursday, as the search for the submarine continued.
There were no signs of the KRI Nanggala-402 carrying 53 crew, where a search and rescue mission was ongoing in calm weather conditions.
Yudo Margono, Navy Chief of Staff, said there would be enough oxygen for the sailors to last until Saturday, and the submarine was cleared for use.
“The submarine received a letter of feasibility from the Navy,” he told a news conference.
“It was ready for battle.”
Speaking alongside the Chief of Indonesia’s military and its defence minister, Prabowo Subianto, at a news conference in Bali a day after the 44-year-old submarine went missing while conducting torpedo drills north of the island.
The 1,395-ton vessel was built in Germany in 1977, according to the defence ministry, and joined the Indonesian fleet in 1981. It underwent a two-year refit, completed in 2012, in South Korea.
Prabowo acknowledged it was “imperative we modernise our defence equipment faster”. He did not suggest there were any problems with the vessel.
An aerial search found an oil spill near the submarine’s dive location and two navy vessels with sonar capability were deployed to assist in the search, officials said.
Yudo said authorities had found an item with “high magnetic force” floating at a depth of 50 to 100 metres.
Earlier, Navy spokesman Julius Widjojono told KompasTV the diesel-electric submarine could sustain a depth of 250 to 500m.
“Anything more can be fatal, dangerous,” the spokesman told KompasTV.
The seas in the area are shallower than elsewhere the archipelago and reach depths exceeding 1 500m.
In a statement on Wednesday, the Navy said “it was possible during static diving, a blackout occurred so control was lost and emergency procedures cannot be carried out and the ship falls to a depth of 600 to 700m.”
Indonesia said a number of countries in the region responded to requests for assistance.
Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said Australia would “help in any way we can”, while Singapore deployed a submarine rescue vessel to help, the city-state’s defence minister said and Malaysia was also sending a ship.
Indonesian military chief Hadi Tjahjanto told Reuters in a text message contact with the vessel was lost at 04h30 and a search was underway 100km off Bali.
The oil slick could indicate damage to the vessel or be a signal from the crew, the Navy said.
Indonesia previously operated a fleet of 12 Soviet Union submarines to patrol the waters of its sprawling archipelago. It now has a fleet of five including two German-built Type 209 submarines and three newer South Korean vessels.