The US Navy and NASA have joined the search for a diesel-electric submarine Armada (navy) of Argentina – ARA San Juan (S-42)—and her crew of forty-four sailors lost in the South Seas of Argentina. Last contact with the TR-1700-class subclass, built in 1983 by German shipbuilder Thyssen Nordseewerke, was on November 15.
NASA sent a modified P-3 Orion aircraft—previously used by the Navy for underwater hunting—to assist in the search. The P-3 is equipped with a magnetic anomaly detector (or magnetometer), a gravimeter for detecting small changes in Earth’s gravity, infrared cameras, and other sensors for measuring ice thickness. With that range, the P-3 may be able to detect a submarine that is underwater.
The P-3 is flying out of the Argentine city of Ushuaia as part of NASA’s IceBridge annual Antarctic survey. This is the first year that NASA has flown the P-3 as part of the IceBridge, and the P-3 is operating in Ushuaia because of its shorter range than the project’s other aircraft, a modified DC-8.
A NASA P-3 joins three Argentine Armada ships in the ARA destroyer search Sarandí (D-13) and two corvettes, ARA Rosales (P-42) and BODY Drummond (P-31). Reuters reports that Argentine Navy spokesman Enrique Balbi told reporters today, “We are investigating the reasons for the lack of communication (with the submarine). If there is a communication problem, the ship will have to come up. ” The cruise ship is traveling from Ushuaia to Mar del Plata, and is expected to stay on course regardless of communications. The lack of any sighting or contact led to a request for help from NASA.
Sam LaGrone of US Naval Institute News report that Argentina has not requested further assistance from the US yet, but the US Navy is preparing underwater rescue gear just in case.