The sinking of Indonesian submarine highlights military shortage

Surabaya, Indonesia – The Indonesian authorities announced this week that the rescue operation involving the Chinese underwater rescue vessel has successfully recovered “fragments” from the KRI Nanggala-402 submarine that sank off the coast of Bali last month. People have raised questions about this matter. The country’s military and its combat readiness.

So far, rescuers have not been able to find the main body of the shipwreck that practiced live torpedoes when it sank on April 21.

It is believed that the submarine, carrying 53 crew members, sank to a depth below 840 meters (2,755 feet) due to a mechanical failure, which is far below its collapse depth of 300 meters (984 feet), causing it to fall into the water. three item.

Admiral Iwan Isnurwanto (Iwan Isnurwanto), speaking to the media on Tuesday, said that KRI Nanggala-402 items, including torpedo cables, technical manuals, life rafts, and Metal plates, but the rescue operation has not yet determined the main body of the ship.

He added that raising any part of the submarine will be a daunting task.

“Several times, Tan Suo 2 [a Chinese rescue vessel] Attempt to lift the bow or bridge.They estimated that the main platform weighs about 18 tons, so it turns out that they cannot lift it […]” He says.

A video shows the Indonesian Navy KRI Nanggala-402 submarine believed to be sunk. Announced this week that some “fragments” have been recovered [File: Johannes P. Christo/Reuters]

The search team also found an underwater crater filled with mud. Isnuvanto said that the main part of the submarine may have been buried in the crater along with the crew’s bodies.

The sinking of KRI Nanggala-402 was built in Germany in 1977 and purchased by the Indonesian Navy in 1981, which raised questions about the overall quality of Indonesian defense equipment, most of which came from abroad.

Process modernization

Over the years, Indonesia has imported military equipment from more than 20 countries including the United Kingdom, the United States, Russia and South Korea.

Indonesia began to modernize its equipment in 2007.

Gilang Kembara of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), an Indonesian think tank focused on strategy, politics, security, and economic affairs, said that the Indonesian Navy launched a “Minimum Force Strategy” in 2010 with a view to carrying out Update and upgrade its equipment to 2024.

He told Al Jazeera: “The Navy is modernizing its warships. This is due to the number of very old warships used in the fleet, many of which were manufactured during the Cold War.” “It also focuses on serving as the Naval Aviation Center. Transform the defense equipment on its submarines, frigates, aircraft and helicopters”.

In 2021, the budget of the Indonesian Armed Forces increased by 11% to IDR136 trillion (US$920 million), after the budget was cut in 2020 due to the COVID-19 epidemic.

When KRI Nanggala-402 sank, the Indonesian navy ordered three submarines from South Korea with the aim of owning eight submarines by 2024. KRI Cakra-401 is the sister submarine of KRI Nanggala-402. Since January 2021, the aircraft has been undergoing necessary maintenance.

Indonesian military chief Hadi Tjahjanto spoke to the media while searching for the KRI Nanggala-402 submarine. The accident of the death of 53 crew members has raised questions about the life of some military equipment. [File: Fikri Yusuf/Antara Foto via Reuters]

Indonesia is made up of more than 17,000 islands, is facing increasing maritime challenges and has disputes with China, and China has found illegal fishing boats in its waters.

Natalie Sambhi, executive director of Verve Research, a multidisciplinary research organization focused on the Southeast Asian military, previously told Al Jazeera that the scale of operations of Indonesian submarines may be “seriously insufficient.”

Indonesia also has a history of indigenous or militia programs designed to supplement its official armed forces, including the Bela Negara concept, which seeks to use paramilitary training, ideological education, and direct civil society into the larger National defense plan. Establish auxiliary reserve forces.

But Ian Wilson, a senior lecturer in politics and security studies at Murdoch University in Australia, said that such attention may make the armed forces not fully prepared for the challenges they face now.

He said: “In many ways, this is in contradiction with specialized, modern and resource-rich military thinking, which focuses on protecting and defending Indonesia’s territorial sovereignty and national interests from potential external sovereign threats.”

“Historically, the army is mainly an organization focused on internal control and power. This may explain why, despite its importance, it has insufficient resources in terms of modern equipment.”

“Legendary Ship”

The Indonesian Armed Forces was established in October 1945 after independence and currently has approximately 400,000 personnel in the Navy, Army and Air Force.

Despite the challenges and accusations of human rights violations in certain areas of its activities, for many people in the country, the life of a soldier is considered a competitive and outstanding cause.

Admiral Frans Wuwung was once the chief engineer of KRI Nanggala-402 and said that when he worked from 1981 to 1985, he felt proud of nothing but pride.

During a memorial ceremony for the crew of the Indonesian navy submarine KRI Nanggala, the family threw flowers to the sea near Bali [File: Juni Kriswanto/AFP]

Wuwung said that the crew of the submarine must undergo a rigorous training and selection process before being allowed to work on board.

“Submarines are an important part of my life and life experience. They cannot be separated,” he said. “To be honest, I have not stopped crying because it is gone.

“It’s like the memories of my youth sinking into it. What’s more heartbreaking is that my brother, the best man in this country, had to die with this legendary ship.”

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