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DOD to Assist in Search for Indonesian Submarine

April 23, 2021 | BY C. Todd Lopez

Earlier this week, on Wednesday, the Indonesian submarine KRI Nanggala disappeared while conducting training operations in the Bali Sea. More than 50 individuals were on board at the time. The Defense Department is providing assistance to help the Indonesians search for that submarine.

"At the request of the Indonesian government, we are sending airborne assets, to include a Navy P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft, to assist in the search of their missing submarine," said Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby during a briefing today at the Pentagon.

A man stands behind a lectern. Behind him is a sign that reads "The Pentagon -- Washington." In front of him are seated individuals.
Pentagon Briefing
Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby holds a news briefing at the Pentagon, April 23, 2021.
Photo By: Air Force Staff Sgt. Jack Sanders, DOD
VIRIN: 210423-D-XI929-200

Kirby told reporters that Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III spoke today with Indonesian Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto to ensure he knew the aircraft was coming and also to offer any additional support or assistance that might be needed.

"Indonesia is a good friend and strategic partner. We were all deeply saddened to see the reports about their submarine and our thoughts and our prayers are with the Indonesian sailors, the Indonesian navy, and of course all their families," Kirby said.

Kirby told reporters that the Navy P-8 Poseidon is a maritime patrol aircraft specially designed to look for things, in particular for submarines.

Seen on a night vision scope, a military aircraft approaches the refueling boom of another aircraft.
Poseidon Refuel
A P-8 Poseidon is refueled by a KC-135 Stratotanker, Feb. 8, 2021.
Photo By: Air Force Senior Airman Tiffany A. Emery
VIRIN: 210208-F-UV276-000R

"It's a sophisticated platform that could be helpful in leading the Indonesian government to a better idea of the location," he said.

Right now, he said, he is not aware that the Indonesian government has asked for any additional kinds of assistance from the U.S. military – although the defense secretary has offered the DOD's help.

A submarine moves through the water.
KRI Nanggala
The Indonesian submarine KRI Nanggala (402) participates in an exercise during Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training Indonesia 2015, August 8, 2015. The KRI Nanggala was recently lost at sea, and the Defense Department is sending assets to assist in finding the submarine.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Alonzo M. Archer
VIRIN: 150808-N-UN259-193R

"I know of no other requests right now by the Indonesian government for other help that could exist either on the surface or subsurface," Kirby said. "Certainly, we have lots of capability, but I won't characterize what kind of mission this is."

Ultimately, if the submarine is found, it will be up to the Indonesians on how to proceed, Kirby said, adding that a task like raising a submarine to retrieve it is challenging work.

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"So much depends on if you're going after an object underwater, whatever it is, the condition it's in and how deep it is, and also what the ... bottom is like and what the currents are like," he said. "I mean, there's a lot to take in. And raising something from the bottom of the sea is dangerous, painstaking work. We have some capabilities to assist in that."

Right now, he said, beyond the P-8 aircraft that's being provided, additional aspects of how DOD might help are unknown.

"We want to help them find the submarine and we want to do whatever we can, whatever they need us to do, or would like us to do, to help them find it," he said.