Indonesia submarine with 53 on board goes missing

The KRI Nanggala-402 was built in West Germany in 1977

In a statement published Wednesday night, the Indonesian Ministry of Defense said the KRI Nanggala-402, a German-made submarine, lost contact during a torpedo drill in the Bali Strait - a stretch of water between the islands of Java and Bali that connects to the Indian Ocean and the Bali Sea.

Some reports say contact was lost after the submarine had been given clearance to dive into deeper waters.

An oil spill has been found near the missing submarine's earlier known position, Reuters said, quoting the Indonesian Defence Ministry.

Indonesia reported that Indonesian navy official Julius Widjojono said he suspected the submarine had descended to a depth of 600-700 metres.

Indonesia's military chief said warships had been dispatched to find the KRI Nanggala-402 vessel.

According to the source, the surface crew became increasingly anxious with each passing hour with contact until, according to Janes, a defense news outlet, the Indonesian armed forces sent out a distress call to the International Submarine Escape and Rescue Liaison Office at about 9:37 a.m. local time to report the submarine as missing with the presumption that it has sunk.

Representatives of the defence departments of the two countries did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

"We know the area but it's quite deep", he said.

The military chief will hold a media briefing to share further information about the search on Thursday from Bali, a spokesman said.

The Indonesian Cakra submarine KRI Nanggala sails out from the port in Cilegon, Banten, on October 5, 2017.

Both Type 209/1300 (Cakra-class) submarines of the Indonesian Navy, KRI Cakra and KRI Nanggala were built by Germany's Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft (HDW, TKMS) in 1981. It underwent a two-year refit in South Korea that was completed in 2012.

Indonesia now has a fleet of five submarines and plans to operate at least eight by 2024.

According to the Daily Star, which cites the country's military chief, the missing vessel is one of five submarines in the Indonesian Navy.

Indonesia has been seeking to upgrade its defense capabilities, but some of its equipment still in service is old and there have been deadly accidents involving in particular ageing military transport planes in recent years.

In 2015, an Indonesian military transport plane crashed into a northern residential area two minutes after takeoff, killing more than 100 people.

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