INDONESIA has just 72 hours left to rescue 53 crew members of a missing navy submarine before they run out of oxygen.

Rescue crews are continuing their desperate search to find the missing submarine before air supplies run out on Saturday, said the navy's chief of staff.

The KRI Nanggala-402 submarine disappeared about 60 miles (100km) off the coast of Bali early on Wednesday morning.

Six warships, a helicopter and 400 people are involved in the search.

Singapore and Malaysia have dispatched ships, and the US, Australia, France, and Germany have offered assistance.

The German-built submarine had been conducting a drill but failed to report back and contact was lost, the navy said.

Some reports said contact was lost with the submarine after it was given clearance to dive into deeper waters.

An oil spill found near where the submarine dived could point to fuel tank damage, or could also be a signal from the crew, the navy said.

A search and rescue mission is ongoing in calm weather conditions.

Yudo Margono, the navy chief of staff, said there would be enough oxygen for the sailors to last until Saturday, and that the submarine had been cleared for use.

"The submarine has received a letter of feasibility from the navy," he told a news conference.

"It was ready for battle."

He also said authorities had found an item with "high magnetic force" floating at a depth of 50 to 100 metres.

The navy chief was speaking alongside the chief of Indonesia's military and its defence minister, Prabowo Subianto, at a news conference in Bali a day after the submarine went missing while conducting a torpedo drill north of the island.

The 1,395-tonne vessel was built in Germany in 1977, according to the defence ministry, and joined the Indonesian fleet in 1981.

It underwent a two-year refit in South Korea that was completed in 2012.

Prabowo acknowledged it was "imperative that we should modernise our defence equipment faster".

He did not suggest there were any problems with the vessel.


Former nuclear sub commander Ryan Ramsey warned the missing crew may never be found as the water where they vanished is almost a mile deep.

"If something has happened it is very unlikely that the Nanggala-402 will be found," the ex-Navy officer told The Sun.

"The fact that she hasn't touched base during a routine communications window also suggests that she has been lost."

"Bali is a volcanic island surrounded by very deep water – up to 1,590m – which would hamper the chances of finding survivors.

"If they had a problem during an exercise they would surface.

"So either they've not been able to surface the submarine or something very dramatic has happened instantaneously."

Indonesian navy spokesman First Admiral Julius Widjojono told local media there was a possibility the sub was already in a trough in the sea, "probably at 600-700 meters".

Earlier, Widjojono told KompasTV that the diesel-powered submarine that runs on electric batteries while submerged could sustain a depth of 250-500 metres (820-1640 ft).

"Anything more than that can be pretty fatal, dangerous," the spokesman told KompasTV.

The seas in the area are shallower than in other parts of the archipelago but can still reach depths of more than 1,500 metres.

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