Indonesia's navy on Saturday said items were found from a missing submarine, indicating the vessel with 53 crew members sank and there was no hope of finding survivors.
Navy Chief Yudo Margono said rescuers found several items from the KRI Nanggala 402, which disappeared after its last reported dive Wednesday off the resort island of Bali, including parts of a torpedo straightener, a grease bottle believed to be used to oil the periscope and prayer rugs.
"With the authentic evidence we found believed to be from the submarine, we have now moved from the 'sub miss' phase to 'sub sunk,'" Margono said at a press conference in Bali where the found items were displayed.
Officials had previously said the submarine's oxygen supply would have run out early Saturday. Indonesia had considered the submarine just missing.
An American reconnaissance plane, a P-8 Poseidon, landed early Saturday and was set to join the search, along with 20 Indonesian ships, a sonar-equipped Australian warship and four Indonesian aircraft.
Singaporean rescue ships were also expected later Saturday, while Malaysian rescue vessels were due to arrive Sunday, bolstering the underwater hunt, Indonesia military spokesperson Djawara Whimbo said earlier Saturday. He had said Indonesia’s hydrographic vessel was still unable to detect an unidentified object exhibiting high magnetism that was earlier detected located at a depth of 165 to 330 feet.
The cause of the disappearance is still uncertain. The navy has said an electrical failure could have left the submarine unable to execute emergency procedures to resurface.
The search focused on an area near the starting position of its last dive where an oil slick was found but there was no conclusive evidence so far the oil slick was from the sub.
The sub disappeared Wednesday morning 60 miles north of Bali after a military exercise, Indonesia's navy said. At the time, officials believed that the sub was more than 2,000 feet deep, making recovery impossible, authorities said. It's a depth that threatens to crush a vessel.
The 44-year-old German-made sub did not have an emergency docking collar on it that would allow a rescue submersible to attach itself and allow the crew to safely exit, naval authorities said.
The submarine was conducting a torpedo drill when contact was lost.
Frank Owen, secretary of the Submarine Institute of Australia, a former submariner who developed an Australian submarine rescue system, said the Indonesian vessel was not fitted with a rescue seat around an escape hatch designed for underwater rescues. He said a rescue submarine would make a waterproof connection to a disabled submarine with a so-called skirt fitted over the rescue seat so the hatch can be opened without the disabled submarine filling with water.
The KRI Nanggala 402 sub was one of five operated by the Indonesian navy. It was built in 1977 by Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft, a German company. Indonesia bought it in 1981.
The sub went into service in 1981. It was a vintage Cakra-class vessel built by the former West Germany during the Cold War. It had been used by more than a dozen navies over the past five decades, including those from Argentina, Greece, India and Turkey.
Asian news organizations cited analysts who say that the nearly half-century old sub underscores the dangers of Indonesia’s decrepit military equipment.
Collin Koh, a research fellow at the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies in Singapore, told the South China Morning Post that the submarine went missing in "no small part [due to] aging military hardware, though submarine accidents can also be attributed to human factors – errors in operating the boat, or even erroneous maintenance work done on the boat while moored alongside."
The missing submarine was last refurbished in 2012.
Zachary Abuza, professor of Southeast Asia studies at the Washington-based National War College, told the South China Morning Post that the warm waters around Indonesia can take its toll on the nation's sub fleet.
"Submarines last fewer years in tropical waters due to the warmer water, and Indonesia doesn't have a great track record of caring for its ships," he said.
SOURCE: USA TODAY Network reporting and research; Associated Press; Reuters
Rescuers desperately search for lost Indonesia submarine as oxygen runs out for crew of 53
Rescuers are searching for a lost Indonesian submarine that is running out of oxygen with 53 crew members on board.