US Navy P-8 Poseidon fighter jets have joined the global search for the Armada fleet San Juan, and the Navy has provided underwater rescue vehicles and four unmanned aerial vehicles (UUVs) to assist in the search as well. The Argentine unit is missing in the Argentine Sea, and the next search is entering its fifth day.
A fleet of P-8s arrived in Argentina over the weekend, and another is arriving today. Additional rescue systems are on their way, including NATO’s submarine rescue system. In the meantime, rough weather and high seas are hampering the search, and the lost crew’s hopes are fading.
Them San Juan, a German-built submarine, had a crew of 44-including Argentina’s first female submarine officer. The ship went out of contact while en route from Argentina’s Tierra del Fuego islands to Argentina’s northern Armada base at Mar del Plata. Previously, the modern diesel-electric submarine, built in 1983 and put into service in 1985, went through a mid-life overhaul, completed in 2013. The submarine’s primary role was to receive intelligence, including fishing space in Argentina’s economic zone for. illegal fishing operations.
The Navy’s Poseidon helicopter can carry sonobuoys from the air to search for submerged submarines; These tube-launched buoys extend underwater into a variety of sonar sensors that can get well below the surface layers of the ocean to either actively “Ping” or quietly listen for sounds from the boat. affect. It also carries a powerful surface-scanning radar system, but the aircraft lacks the magnetic anomaly detection equipment of its predecessor, the P-3 Orion.
The Navy patrol planes join the NASA P-3 Orion “flying lab” that has been in Argentina for Operation IceBridge. Other vehicles assisting the search include a Brazilian P-3 and an EADS CASA C-295 multi-purpose aircraft, a Chilean CASA C-295, several Argentine Navy and Air Force aircraft (including a Grumman S- 2E Tracker submarine two and C- 130 Years), and the British navy’s ice patrol ship HMS Defender.
Hoping to help in the event of a submarine, a unit from the US Navy’s Undersea Rescue Command (URC) was deployed to Argentina on Saturday with a Submarine Rescue Chamber — a submarine bell designed to be carried with A submarine escape attempt in distress for the rescue crew. The SRC, also known as the McCann Chamber, is essentially a technology unchanged since World War II, and is suited to shallow water rescues. The Navy is also deploying the Pressure Rescue Module (PRM), a personal rescue service intended for underwater rescues.
The US sent an additional torpedo ring Bluefin 12D (deep) UUV and three less OceanServer Iver3 580 UUVs from Navy Unmanned Undersea Vehicle Squadron 1, based in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. These systems carry sonar that can be used to locate the bottom, helping to guide a rescue effort. The Bluefin UUV, manufactured by a unit at General Dynamics, was previously used as a search unit for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 off the coast of Australia.
Regarding weather issues, search efforts have been hampered by high waves and poor visibility in the Argentine Sea. The storm over the area is producing waves as high as 26 feet (8 meters) as shown in the video from the Argentinean weather Sarah Posted by Armada Argentina today:
#AYER estas eran las condicions meteorológicas y el estado del mar en la zone de operaciones de búsqueda y rescuate del #SubmarinoARASanJuan Fueron tomadas desde el destructor ARA “Sardí” pic.twitter.com/F8nddnWTpJ
– Armada Argentina (@Armada_Arg) November 20, 2017
The high sea state may have contributed to the submarine’s initial problems. For the comfort of the crew and for speed, the San Juan it will travel normally at “snorkeling” depth, allowing space to run its diesel engines to power its electric drive and communicate through the antenna mast. The submarine also has an emergency position-radio indicator (EPIRB) and a satellite communication buoy that can be deployed if the vessel is in distress.
Seven short satellite calls over the past few days to Argentine Armada bases may have been made by the submarine’s crew. But as of today, Argentine navy officials can not confirm if the calls were from the San Juan. “We are analyzing more carefully to determine reliably that they are not calls coming from low water,” Adm. Gabriel Gonzalez, commander of the Mar del Plata Naval Base, had a statement to press this morning. Rain and high tides can interfere with satellite phone calls due to a weak signal. Argentina’s navy is looking for records from a satellite phone company to help find where the calls came from.
There is hope that the crew is alive and can be rescued. The unit will have oxygen for 10 days when submerged in water even without power. But the weather continues to pose significant challenges to the rescue effort as well, and it will be difficult to get the Submarine Rescue Chamber into place. San Juan‘s deck if the rib is on its side or at an angle on the bottom.
UPDATE, 2:55 PM EST: Argentine navy official reported that we had seen things that can be the crew of the San Juan underwater signal for help. The search area has been reduced to a 35-square-mile area about 330 miles south of Argentina.
Image courtesy of US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Arthurgwain L. Marquez