The Argentine Navy have lost contact with one of their diesel-electric submarines in the waters of Puerto Madryn of Northern Patagonia.
Submarine ARA SAN JUAN, a German-built TR-1700-class diesel-electric in active service with the Argentine Navy was built in 1983 and has a displacement of 2140 tonnes.
It last made contact with Navy command on the 15th November and has not been heard from since.
It has not been officially reported as ‘lost’ as the Argentine government believe it has suffered an electrical fault with its communication system and is still on a pre determined course.
A Navy spokesman told the Argentine press that the submarine had been on its way from the Ushuaia naval base to the Mar del Plata base, its usual station, when “at some moment communication stopped”.
“It’s not that it’s lost,” the spokesman said. “For it to be lost we’d have to look for it and not find it.”
What happens now?
The situation is time critical – if the submarine has suffered something more serious than a communications malfunction and is unable to surface, finding its exact location is the first thing to do.
This will be done by scanning the sea bed on the proposed route that the submarine has taken; the scans will either find a stationary object or a moving one.
A stationary object is more serious as the submarine will therefore be unable to manoeuvre by itself.
The British have offered their support by sending the Submarine Parachute Assistance Group (S.P.A.G.) which are able to deploy by parachute from a Hercules C-130 anywhere in the world.
Once the submarine has been located establishing communications will determine the exact problem and inform the 44 crew on board the details of the rescue mission.
A likely method would be to dispatch the NATO Submarine Rescue System; joint developed by France, Norway and the UK but available for use to any NATO country.
Although Argentina is not a member of NATO, in times of peace assets are shared between governments to increase the chances of a successful rescue attempt.
Standby for updates.