Hopes fade for the 53 crew members on board missing Indonesian submarine who are expected to have run out of oxygen early Saturday as the United States joined the hunt.

Oxygen on the submarine is estimated to last only three days after losing power, a deadline that has passed.

The Indonesian navy said it was sending search helicopters and ships to the area where contact was lost with the 44-year-old KRI Nanggala-402 submarine on Wednesday as it prepared to conduct a torpedo drill.

“We will maximise the effort today, until the time limit tomorrow at 3 am,” military spokesperson Major General Achmad Riad said at a press conference on Friday. 

The commander of the Indonesian submarine fleet is also on board, he added.

Australia has also deployed a sonar-equipped frigate with a helicopter to help the submarine hunt, while a deep submergence rescue vessel is on route from India, as concerns grow the submarine might have been crushed by water pressure.

Indonesia’s navy said it was investigating whether the submarine lost power during a dive and could not carry out emergency procedures as it descended to a depth of 600 to 700 meters (1,968 to 2,296 feet), well beyond its survivable limits.

An object with “high magnetic force” had been spotted “floating” at a depth of 50 to 100 meters (164 to 328 feet), Indonesian Navy Chief of Staff Yudo Margono said on Friday, and an aerial search had earlier spotted an oil spill near the submarine’s last location.

The diesel-electric powered submarine could withstand a depth of up to 500 meters (1,640 feet) but anything more could be fatal, navy spokesman Julius Widjojono said.

The Bali Sea can reach depths of more than 1,500 meters (4,921 feet).


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