Indonesia's missing submarine found, all 53 crew killed

Bali, Indonesia: The military announced Sunday that all 53 crew members of an Indonesian submarine that went missing last week were killed, as the vessel was discovered in pieces on the seafloor.

Authorities said they received signals early Sunday from a position more than 800 meters (2,600 feet) deep – well below what the steel hull of the KRI Nanggala 402 was designed to withstand.

To get visual confirmation of the stricken vessel, they used an underwater submarine rescue vehicle supplied by neighboring Singapore.

"It was shattered into three pieces," Navy Chief of Staff Yudo Margono said.

Authorities said they recovered more parts from the sinking submarine, including an anchor and bright orange survival suits for emergencies.

The discovery comes only a day after the navy announced the recovery of submarine fragments and reported that the submarine had sunk, effectively ending any hope of finding survivors.

A portion of the torpedo mechanism and a bottle of grease used to lubricate periscopes were among the earlier objects retrieved.

They also discovered a prayer mat, which is widely used in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim-majority nation.

Since the submarine went missing this week during training exercises, warships, helicopters, and hundreds of military personnel have led a desperate search for it, hoping for a miraculous recovery before its known oxygen supplies run out.

However, Indonesian military chief Hadi Tjahjanto reported on Sunday that there was no possibility of finding any of the crew alive.

"With deep sadness, I can say that all 53 personnel onboard have passed," he told reporters.

'Folding accordion'  

Earlier Sunday, relatives of First Lieutenant Muhammad Imam Adi, a 29-year-old father of a young boy, clung to hope.

"My wish now is that my son and all the crew can be found," Adi's father Edy Sujianto said from his home on Java island.

"My son had wanted to become a soldier since he was a child. That was his dream."

President Joko Widodo described the sailors as Indonesia's "best patriots".

"All Indonesians express their profound sorrow over this incident, especially to the families of the submarine crew," he said.

Authorities have not given an explanation for the crash, but have speculated that the submarine may have experienced a blackout, rendering the crew unable to resurface.

However, they ruled out an explosion, saying on Saturday that the facts indicated the submarine disintegrated as it was crushed by immense water pressure in the vast depths.

"Submarine hulls are pressurized... but when they're breached then water would come flooding inside," said Wisnu Wardhana, a maritime expert at Indonesia's Sepuluh Nopember Institute of Technology.

"Can you imagine if water with that kind of pressure hits people?"

Retired French vice-admiral Jean-Louis Vichot previously told AFP that if a submarine reaches depths well beyond its capabilities, its hull could collapse "like a folding accordion."

Salvage operation 

According to Navy Chief Margono, any salvage operation would be dangerous and difficult.

"We'll discuss it to make a decision on how to lift the submarine in this condition," he said Sunday.

"I want to lift it, but how do we bring it up from (these depths)?"

Malaysia, as well as the United States, India, and Australia, were among the countries assisting in the search.

Search and rescue boats, reconnaissance aircraft, and submarine rescue ships had been deployed to scour a 10-square-mile area (34 square kilometers).

The submarine, one of five in Indonesia's fleet, vanished early Wednesday while conducting live torpedo training exercises off the coast of Bali.

The crew requested permission to dive. Shortly after, it lost touch.

Later, search and rescue teams discovered an oil leak near where the vessel was believed to have sunk, indicating potential fuel-tank damage and a disastrous crash.

According to the navy, the submarine, which was delivered to Indonesia in 1981, was seaworthy.

More than a dozen navies around the world have used the concept.

Analysts have speculated that investigators would consider the age of the Indonesian submarine as a possible cause.

The disaster was one of a series of deadly submarine incidents in recent decades.

Among the worst was the sinking of the Kursk, Russia's Northern Fleet's pride, in 2000.

The submarine was on maneuvers in the Barents Sea when it sank, killing all 118 people on board. An investigation revealed that a torpedo had detonated, detonating all the others.

The majority of its crew died instantly, but some survived for several days before succumbing to suffocation.

The Type 209: a German submarine sold around the world

The Indonesian submarine that disappeared Wednesday is a German-built model that has served in more than a dozen navies around the world over the past half-century.

The 1,300-tonne KRI Nanggala 402 is a Type 209 diesel-electric attack submarine. Its construction began in 1978 and Indonesia took delivery in October 1981.

The KRI Nanggala, which had undergone several upgrades, was participating in naval exercises off the coast of Bali when it requested permission to dive and contact was then lost, authorities said.

There was 53 crew aboard the vessel, which was believed to be in waters about 700 meters (2,300 feet) deep.

"It's a classic submarine," French navy vice admiral Antoine Beaussant told AFP.

It had a safety descent level of 250 meters, and "if it went down to rest at 700 meters the likelihood is it would have broken up," he said.

The KRI Nanggala was refitted in 1989 in Germany and then in 2012 in South Korea, with part of its structure replaced and upgrades to its propulsion, sonar, and weapons systems.

Indonesia's navy possesses another submarine of the same model, the KRI Cakra. It also has three other of different Type 209 models built more recently in South Korea and Indonesia, according to Janes, which specializes in military information.

In 1993 Indonesia also acquired 39 used ships from the former East German navy.

Developed in the 1960s to replace WWII-era vessels, the Type 209 was never used by Germany but enjoyed success as an export with 61 sold to over a dozen countries including Greece, India, and Turkey.

Argentina deployed a Type 209 during the Falklands War against Britain.

Egypt is due to receive a fourth, a Type 209/1400 built in the German shipyards where the vessel was developed, now owned by industrial giant Thyssenkrupp.

The company says on its website that the Type 209 was inspired by the coastal post-war submarines of the German navy, but enlarged to be able to operate in deeper waters and carry more equipment.

It said the vessel is "the top-selling non-nuclear submarine in the Western World".

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