Ruins of the missing Indonesian submarine were found off the coast of Bali


Indonesia has declared a submarine missing with 53 crew members “sunk” after finding wreckage off the coast of Bali believed to belong to the ship.

“With the evidence we found coming from the submarine, we have now gone from the ‘disappeared’ to the ‘submerged’ phase,” said Admiral Yudo Margono, chief of staff of the Indonesian navy, as he showed remains found during the search for the Kang Nanggala-402, which disappeared in deep water near Bali during a torpedo firing exercise on Wednesday.

Among the crew members now presumed dead was Harry Setiawan, commander of the Indonesian submarine fleet.

The loss of commander, vessel and crew is a tragic setback for the country’s military at a time when territorial disputes and an arms race are heating up in the region.

Authorities had estimated that the supply of oxygen to the diesel-powered ship, built four decades ago, would be depleted in the early hours of Saturday.

Indonesia continues the search along with specialized aircraft and rescue boats deployed by the United States, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia and India.

“The depth of the sea we have detected is 850 meters, which is very complicated and presents many difficulties,” Margono said on Saturday afternoon. It is more than three times the maximum depth at which experts say the submarine can sail safely.

The Indonesian navy operates five submarines. Two, including the one that is now sunk, were built in Germany and the rest in South Korea.

Jakarta is buying seven additional submarines that will be manufactured in Russia and the country as Southeast Asian countries try to counter China’s rapid military modernization. Beijing in 2019 was the second largest military spending in the world after the United States, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

Indonesia’s military spending increased 69% between 2010 and 2019, the fourth largest jump in Asia-Pacific, according to SIPRI.

“China’s rise as a regional military power and its claims to the South China Sea have become an increasingly urgent security concern for many Southeast Asian states,” according to a paper by Siemon T. Wezeman, SIPRI Senior Researcher.

Southeast Asian military spending jumped at least 33% between 2009 and 2018, “significantly more than global increases [in] military spending, ”Wezeman said.

Patrolling its vast maritime borders and countless islands is a challenge for Indonesia, which has been involved in disputes with China over fishing rights in the controversial South China Sea and elsewhere.

The need to replace obsolete devices – which in more developed countries “have long since been replaced or at least heavily modernized” – is also driving the acquisition of weapons from Southeast Asia, Wezeman said, adding that most of the most important Indonesian warships in 2012 were second-hand and between 25 and 40 years old.

The KRI Nanggala-402 was built 41 years ago and overhauled in South Korea in 2012.

The Indonesian navy said on Wednesday that there could have been a blackout during the “static dive”, which caused the submarine to lose control.

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