KUALA LUMPUR – China has dispatched three ships to Indonesia to assist in the salvaging of the Indonesian attack submarine KRI Nanggala (402). Two ships – the People’s Liberation Army Navy Ocean Tug Nantuo-195 and PLAN Ocean Salvage and Rescue Ship Yongxing Dao-863 – arrived on scene May 3 and the third ship, scientific research vessel Tan Suo 2, is expected to arrive today.
Beijing had earlier made an offer to Indonesian Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto to assist with the salvaging of the submarine on a humanitarian basis and the offer was accepted, according to press reports. The Indonesian Navy is also in talks with SKK Migas, the country’s oil industry regulator, about conducting its own salvage operation. The Indonesian operation would involve the use of offshore support ship Timas 1201, which is equipped with a crane that can lift loads of up to 1,200 tons.
Little information is available on the two PLAN ships. Basic information from the Indonesian Navy said Yongxing Dao-863 had a length of 512 feet and was capable of conducting salvage operations of up to 15,000-feet deep, well within the 2,800-foot depth of the sunken sub. The Indonesian Navy also stated that Nantuo-195 was a 390-foot ship. Tan Suo 2 is more well-known – the 286-feet scientific research ship operates under the Institute of Deep-sea Science and Engineering of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and carries the deep-sea manned submersible Shenhai Yongshi (Deep Sea Warrior). Tan Suo 2 serves also as a second mothership for the manned submersible Fendouzhe (Striver), which is capable of operating to a depth of 32,000 feet.
All other foreign vessels involved in the search of the Nanggala have departed. The Singaporean submarine rescue ship MV Swift Rescue and the Malaysian submarine rescue ship MV Mega Bakti returned to their home ports, while the Royal Australian Navy frigate HMAS Ballarat (FFH 155) has continued with her operational deployment to the region. HMAS Sirius (O266), which was supposed to join the search but likely aborted once the submarine was found on April 25, has since linked up with HMAS Anzac (FFH150). The RAN announced on May 3 that the two ships had conducted a bilateral transit with the French Navy’s Jeanne d’Arc Task Group, comprised of amphibious assault ship FS Tonnerre (L9014) and frigate FS Surcouf (F711).
The Jeanne d’Arc Task Group is on a deployment to the region and is headed to Japan, where it will conduct an amphibious exercise with Japanese and U.S. forces from May 11 to 17.
Nanggala went missing on April 21 after it had submerged to conduct a torpedo practice exercise. It is the second of two Type 209 submarines built in Germany and commissioned into service in 1981 as the Cakra-class. Indonesian naval officials have claimed that a powerful underwater wave caused the submarine’s sinking, but there has been little proof to substantiate the claim.