Officials say aerial refueling of the missing submarine would only last until Saturday, as the research team spotted a “high magnetic force” at a depth of 50-100 meters.
Planes and rescue ships have patrolled the sea north of Bali, Indonesia, while the search for a missing Indonesian submarine with 53 crew members on board reached a critical stage due to limited oxygen supplies aboard the ship. 44 years old.
Other naval vessels left Indonesian base at Banyuwangi on Friday for the Bali Sea, where KRI Nanggala-402 was lost on Wednesday during a torpedo drill.
“The main priority is the safety of the 53 crew members,” President Joko Widodo said Thursday, calling for a full effort to find the ship.
Helicopters also flew from Bali at the crack of dawn.
Officials said the submarine’s air supply, which had been cleared for use and was said to be in good condition, would only last until Saturday.
“Hopefully before they can be found, there will be enough oxygen,” Yudo Margono, the navy chief of staff, said at a news conference.
Commander of the Indonesian submarine fleet, Harry Setiawan, was one of four people on board who were not regular crew members, a military officer said.
Although nothing conclusive has been found in the search so far, Yudo said an object with “high magnetic force” at a depth of 50-100 meters (164-328 feet) had been spotted. It was not clear whether the object was suspended or on the sea floor.
The diesel-electric submarine could withstand depths of up to 500 meters (1,640 meters) but anything else could be fatal, a navy spokesman said. The Bali Sea can reach depths of over 1,500 meters (4,921 feet).
An air search also spotted an oil spill near the submarine’s dive site, which the navy said could indicate damage to the ship or could be a signal from the crew.
The 1,395-ton ship was built in Germany in 1977 and joined the Indonesian fleet in 1981, according to the Defense Ministry. It underwent a two-year refit in South Korea which was completed in 2012.
The navy said a blackout may have occurred during static diving, causing a loss of control and preventing emergency procedures from taking place.
Rescue teams in Indonesia have stepped up their search for a submarine carrying 53 sailors who went missing more than 24 hours ago. KRI Nanggala-402 was conducting a military exercise when it lost contact.
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– Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) April 22, 2021
The United States sends aircraft
Several countries have responded to Indonesia’s requests for assistance, with Australia, Malaysia, India, Singapore and the United States sending specialized ships or aircraft.
The US Department of Defense is sending “aircraft” to assist in the search for submarines, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said on Twitter.
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin is expected to speak with Indonesian Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto on Friday “to convey our grief and discuss how the US can help,” Kirby said.
Meanwhile, two Australian ships were heading for the search area, including a support ship and a sonar-capable frigate, the Defense Department said in a statement.
Indonesia has tried to modernize its defense capabilities, but some of its equipment is old and fatal accidents have occurred in recent years.
Indonesia in the past operated a fleet of 12 submarines purchased by the Soviet Union to patrol the waters of the vast archipelago.
It now operates five: the two German-built Type 209 submarines and three new South Korean ships.