Indonesian Submarine Conducting Live Fire Torpedo Drills Off Bali Disappears with 53 Crew

An Indonesian submarine is feared lost off the coast of Bali on Wednesday, highlighting Jakarta's creaky naval infrastructure and much delayed equipment modernization. The submarine, which was conducting torpedo drills, reportedly has 53 crew members.

The KRI Nanggala 402 submarine was supposed to relay the results of the torpedo drill in waters off north Bali but it failed to do so, military spokesman First Admiral Julius Widjojono said.

The submarine is feared to have disappeared some 26.5 nautical miles northwest of Singaraja on the island of Bali.

Four hours after the vessel lost contact with the command, an oil spill appeared in the waters where it was lost, the reports said.

The Indonesian navy then sent warships to the area to search for the missing vessel. The authorities also sought the help of Singapore and Australia in the search and rescue efforts.

Submarine (Representational image) Pixabay

"We are still searching in the waters of Bali, 96km from Bali, (for) 53 people," the navy spokesman said, according to the Channel News Asia.

KRI Nanggala 402 is a German-built, 1,300-tonne submarine which is more than 40 years old.

The vessel conducting live fire exercise had sought permission for diving at 3am, Western Indonesian Time, the defense ministry said in a statement. "After being granted a dive permit according to the procedure, the vessel lost contact and could not be contacted ... A search was conducted by other ships involved in the exercise Task Force," the ministry further said.

Cakra Class Diesel-Electric Submarine

The Indonesian submarine, which was built in 1978, had undergone renovation in South Korea in recent years. Indonesia has laid out plans to upgrade its naval capabilities in recent years, but is still operating some old vessels, Reuters reported.

The missing vessel is a Cakra (Type 209/1300)-class diesel-electric submarine (SSK), according to the Janes Weekly.

Though Indonesia had as many as 12 submarines earlier, procured from the Soviet Union, it now has only a fleet of five submarines.