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.
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.
"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.
"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.
"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.