Argentine air and sea assets are conducting search and rescue operations after it lost contact with one of its submarines in the San Jorge Gulf some 432km (268 miles) off the nation’s east coast.
The search and rescue operation was formally declared on Friday evening (local time) after no visual or radar contact was made with the submarine. It is understood that the vessel has been out of contact since Wednesday, with the Navy suspecting a communications failure may have occurred while the submarine was off the coast of Chubut Province.
The ARA San Juan is a German-built TR-1700 diesel-electric submarine which entered service in 1985. It has a submerged displacement of 2264 tonnes, is 66m long and has a regular complement of 26. Reports indicate that the vessel was transiting between the navy’s southern base at Ushuaia in the Tierra del Fuego archipelago to the Mar del Plata Naval Base, home of the submarine fleet, at the time of its disappearance.
The state broadcaster Telam is reporting that there was 44 people on board with the New York Times reporting that one is Eliana Maria Kraqczyk, the navy’s first female submarine warfare officer. Her father spoke to the paper saying they were praying for all to return safely. Although the navy is trying to downplay concerns, many worried families have taken up vigil outside of the naval station at Mar del Plata.
Admiral Gonzalez, commander of the Mar del Plata base, reassured the families and the media that the vessel had more than sufficient supplies of food an oxygen. “We have a loss of communications; we are not talking of an emergency,” he told the press, though the longer the submarine is missing the more concerns rise.
Local media sources have already reported claims that the vessel was either struck by fire, or that it has been located submerged at a depth of 70m approximately 300km east of the city of Puerto Madryn. Neither claim has been confirmed by any official sources.
So far Argentina has committed significant resources to the search include S-2E Tracker patrol aircraft, a C-130 transport aircraft, the destroyer ARA Sarandi and corvettes ARA Rosales and ARA Drummond as well as their embarked helicopters.
Britain has offered to support search operations with a C-130 Hercules aircraft currently on station at RAF Mount Pleasant and, following an official request from Argentina, is deploying HMS Protector to the search area. NASA is also providing support with a P-3 Orion aircraft that had been in Argentina conducting scientific missions. It is understood that Chile, Brazil and other regional nations have also offered resources and logistical support to the mission.