BANYUWANGI, Indonesia – The United States is deploying a P-8 Poseidon aircraft to assist in the search and rescue operation for a missing Indonesian Navy submarine lost in the Bali Sea, as hopes fade for the 53 crew which are expected to have run out of oxygen early on Saturday.
The Indonesian navy said it was sending search helicopters and ships to the area where contact was lost with the 44-year-old KRI Nanggala-402 submarine on Wednesday as it prepared to conduct a torpedo drill.
Australia has also deployed a sonar-equipped warship with a helicopter to help the submarine hunt, as concerns grow that the submarine might have been crushed by water pressure.
If the submarine was still intact, Indonesian officials said Friday it would only have enough air to last until around dawn on Saturday.
“So far we haven’t found it … but with the equipment available we should be able to find the location,” Achmad Riad, a spokesman for the Indonesian military, told a news conference. Indonesia’s Navy said it was investigating whether the submarine lost power during a dive and could not carry out emergency procedures as it descended to a depth of 600-700 meters (1,968-2,296 feet), well beyond its survivable limits.
An object with “high magnetic force” had been spotted “floating” at a depth of 50-100 meters, Indonesian Navy Chief of Staff Yudo Margono said on Friday, and an aerial search had earlier spotted an oil spill near the submarine’s last location.
The diesel-electric powered submarine could withstand a depth of up to 500 meters but anything more could be fatal, navy spokesman Julius Widjojono said. The Bali Sea can reach depths of more than 1,500 meters.
One of the people on board was the commander of the Indonesian submarine fleet, Harry Setiawan.
Late on Friday, the Pentagon said U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had spoken with his Indonesian counterpart, Prabowo Subianto, and offered additional support, which could include undersea search assets.
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