Fresh Hope for Missing Submariners

Submarine Rescue Chamber
Submarine Rescue Chamber

By The Maritime Executive 2017-11-19 15:52:15

Hopes that the 44 crew members of a missing Argentine submarine may be found alive have risen after the nation's ministry for defense said it detected what it believes are attempts at satellite communication from the submarine on Saturday.

The ministry said seven failed satellite calls that it believes came from the A.R.A. San Juan were detected. The signals between four and 36 seconds and are believed to have failed due to adverse weather conditions in the region.

The San Juan has been out of radio contact with shore since last Wednesday. The submarine was en route from Ushuaia to Mar del Plata, and her last known position was about 240 nautical miles off the coast of Patagonia, near the San Jorge Gulf. The country's first female submarine officer, 35-year-old Eliana Krawczyk, is among the 44 missing.

The Argentine navy said an electrical outage on the diesel-electric submarine may have caused the loss of communications. The San Juan was inaugurated in 1983, making her the newest of the three submarines in the navy’s fleet.

An international search mission is underway. The U.S. Navy's Undersea Rescue Command is deploying two independent rescue assets suited to the varying depth of ocean waters near South America's southeastern coast. Three U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III and one U.S. Air Force C-5 Galaxy aircraft will transport the first rescue system, the Submarine Rescue Chamber and underwater intervention Remotely Operated Vehicle from Miramar to Comodoro Rivadavia, Argentina. The four aircraft are scheduled to arrive in Argentina on Sunday. 

The Submarine Rescue Chamber is a McCann rescue chamber designed during World War II and still used today. It can rescue up to six persons at a time and reach a bottomed submarine at depths of 850 feet. 

The second rescue system, the Pressurized Rescue Module and supporting equipment, will be transported via additional flights and is scheduled to arrive in Argentina early next week. The Pressurized Rescue Module can submerge up to 2,000 feet for docking and mating, with a submarine settled on the ocean floor up to 45-degree angle in both pitch and roll. It can rescue up to 16 personnel at a time. 

Both assets are operated by two crewmembers and mate with the submarine by sealing over the submarine's hatch allowing Sailors to safely transfer to the rescue chamber.

The Royal Navy has deployed the ice patrol ship HMS Protector to the southern Argentine Sea to assist in the search for the submarine.