Aircraft join ‘race against’ time to find missing Indonesian submarine

U.S. Navy photo

Indonesia has launched a vast air and naval operation to locate its KRI Nanggala submarine, which disappeared with 53 people on board on April 21, 2021. Several countries have offered air assets to assist in the search. 

The KRI Nanggala submarine disappeared during anti-submarine warfare drills. Other elements of the Indonesian Navy were tasked with locating two aggressor submarines, including the Nanggala. But over the night, contact was lost and the exercise became very real.

The Indonesian Navy operates a fleet of five German and South Korean-built submarines. The KRI Nanggala is a Type 209 diesel-powered attack submarine built in Germany in the 1970s. It was retrofitted in South Korea in 2012. 

Several countries have offered their assistance. An Indian Boeing P-8I Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft was sent in the area, as well as two Australian Lockheed-Martin C-130J-30 Super Hercules equipped for search and rescue operations. John Kirby, a spokesperson for the United States Department of Defense, said that air assets would also be sent.

The goal is to map the area where the submarine is suspected to have disappeared. Maritime patrol aircraft are equipped with magnetic anomaly detectors, allowing them to detect objects underwater. 

The rescue is a race against time, as the submarine has enough oxygen to survive until April 24, 2021. “We’ve only got until 0300 tomorrow so we’re maximizing all of our efforts today,” said Indonesian military spokesman Achmad Riad.


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