UPDATED: U.S., Australia Join in Search for Missing Indonesian Attack Sub

April 23, 2021 11:01 AM - Updated: April 23, 2021 1:58 PM
A P-8A Poseidon, assigned to the ‘Fighting Tigers’ of Patrol Squadron (VP) 8, lands at Misawa Air Base during scheduled flight operations on Jan. 15, 2021. US Navy Photo

This post has been updated with a Friday statement from the Pentagon.

KUALA LUMPUR — Indonesia is focusing its search efforts for missing submarine KRI Nanggala (402) in an area 25 miles north of Celukan Bawang Beach in Bali, while both Australia and the United States have joined the search effort with the commitment of two ships and an aircraft, respectively.

In a press conference on Friday, the head of the Indonesian Armed Forces Information Centre, Maj. Gen. Achmad Riad, said the new search area was based on oil slicks and strong magnetic readings. He said 21 Indonesian Navy ships, including submarine KRI Alugoro (405), along with four Indonesian National Police ships, were currently involved in the search efforts.

KRI Nanggala (402) in 2015. US Navy Photo

Indonesia is racing against time to locate the submarine, as it was estimated that the boat only had enough oxygen to last until 3:00 a.m. Indonesian time on Saturday.

The missing Nanggala is the second of two Type 209 submarines built in Germany and commissioned into service in 1981 as the Cakra class. It completed a refit in the South Korea in 2012.

MV Swift Rescue departing Changi Naval Base for the search operation. Singapore Defense Ministry Photo

Singapore’s MV Swift Rescue was expected to be on scene by Friday night local time, Achmad said, adding that Indonesia expected a U.S. P-8A Poseidon aircraft to arrive around the same time.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin spoke Friday with Indonesian Minister of Defense Prabowo Subianto.

“The two discussed the recent deployment of a P-8 Poseidon aircraft to aid the search. Secretary Austin offered to provide additional assistance, which could include undersea search assets, for the effort. Minister Prabowo thanked Secretary Austin for his concern and for U.S. assistance, citing his appreciation for the friendship between the two countries,” reads a Pentagon statement.

Australia’s Department of Defence issued a statement on Friday that frigate HMAS Ballarat (FFH 155) with an embarked MH-60R helicopter and tanker HMAS Sirius (O266), both of which are in Southeast Asia on separate regional deployments, would also assist in the search. Ballarat was expected to reach the area on the Friday after transiting the Lombok Straits ,while Sirius, currently off the coast of Brunei, would only reach the area on Tuesday.

HMAS Ballarat during a combined patrol in the North Arabian Gulf in 2018. RAN Photo

Ballarat left the HMAS Stirling naval base in Perth on April 18 for a scheduled regional deployment and was supposed to have linked up with frigate HMAS Parramatta (FFH 154) off Northern Australia. However, that planned rendezvous has likely been aborted.

Sirius together with the frigate HMAS Anzac (FFH150) departed their homeport in Western Australia in early March for a two-month deployment throughout the northeast Indian Ocean and Southeast Asia, which included participation in the La Perouse exercise held in the Bay of Bengal from April 5 to 7 between Australia, India, Japan, the United States and France.

Dzirhan Mahadzir

Dzirhan Mahadzir

Dzirhan Mahadzir is a freelance defense journalist and analyst based in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia. Among the publications he has written for and currently writes for since 1998 includes Defence Review Asia, Jane’s Defence Weekly, Navy International, International Defence Review, Asian Defence Journal, Defence Helicopter, Asian Military Review and the Asia-Pacific Defence Reporter.

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