Argentine Navy Launches Search for Missing Sub

ARA San Juan ( file image courtesy Martin Otero - Naval Base Mar del Plata)

By The Maritime Executive 11-17-2017 10:23:41

The Argentine Navy submarine ARA San Juan has been out of radio contact wth shore since Wednesday, and Argentina has launched a search and rescue effort to find her. The San Juan and her 44 crewmembers were en route from Ushuaia to Mar del Plata, and her last known position was about 240 nm off the coast of Patagonia, near the San Jorge Gulf.

The Argentine Navy has dispatched the corvettes ARA Rosales and ARA Drummond and the destroyer ARA Sarandi to look for the missing sub. In addition, the U.S. government is contributing the services of a NASA P-3 Orion, which was in the region for an Antarctic survey. The UK and Chile have also offered to share satellite imaging and vessel assets to aid in the search. Limited visibility has hindered the effort so far; as of Friday morning, the marine weather report for the region showed a storm system with winds of 35 knots and waves of 13-16 feet in the area.

A spokesman for the Argentine Navy indicated that it was not necessarily a rescue mission yet. "We are not talking about an emergency right now, but rather we are handling it as a loss of communication," said Rear Adm. Gabriel Martin Gonzalez in comments to media on Friday. 

Family members of the San Juan's crew expressed concern. "We are praying to God and asking that all Argentinians help us to pray that they keep navigating and that they can be found," said Claudio Rodriguez, brother of a sailor aboard the San Juan, speaking to local media. 

In case the submarine has gone down, the U.S. Navy's Undersea Rescue Command is assembling a crew for a mobile Submarine Rescue Diving and Recompression System, which could be deployed by airlift to Argentina. The system can be loaded onto a vessel of opportunity and used for a subsurface rescue in depths of up to 2,000 feet. 

The San Juan is a TR-1700 class diesel-electric attack submarine built by the Thyssen Nordseewerke yard in Germany. She was commissioned in 1985 and she completed an extensive midlife refit in 2014.