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UPDATED: U.S. Submarine Rescue Equipment, Crews Sent to Argentina; 2nd P-8A Sent to Region

The pressurized rescue module (PRM) is recovered from the water after performing a submarine rescue exercise with the Chilean submarine CS Simpson (SSK-21) off the coast of San Diego in 2008. US Navy Photo

This post has been updated with additional information from U.S. Southern Command.

The U.S. Navy’s Undersea Rescue Command is deploying to Argentina as part of the American response to a missing submarine and its 44 sailors, U.S. Southern Command announced on Saturday.

The command is sending two rescue systems from San Diego, Calif. to Comodoro Rivadavia, Argentina via military airlift in support of efforts around the missing ARA San Juan (S-42). The Argentine Armada had its last contact with San Juan on Wednesday.

“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 (SRC) and underwater intervention Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) from Miramar to Comodoro Rivadavia, Argentina,” read the statement.
“The four aircraft are scheduled to depart Miramar Nov. 18 and arrive in Argentina Nov. 19.”

The U.S. is also sending a second P-8A Poseidon anti-submarine warfare aircraft to the region to assist with the search for San Juan, SOUTHCOM announced on Sunday. The aircraft will operate from Bahia Blanca, Argentina.

A submarine second rescue system, the Pressurized Rescue Module (PRM), is set to arrive in the country sometime next week.

ARA San Juan (S-42)

“The SRC is a McCann rescue chamber designed during World War II and still used today. SRC can rescue up to six persons at a time and reach a bottomed submarine at depths of 850 feet,” read the statement.
“The PRM 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. The PRM can rescue up to 16 personnel at a time.”

The U.S. has deployed a Navy P-8A Poseidon anti-submarine warfare aircraft to help with the search for San Juan and a NASA P-3B research aircraft has also joined in the search.

In addition to NASA’s P-3 and the Navy’s P-8A, the Argentine Armada has dispatched destroyer ARA Sarandí (D-13)and corvettes ARA Rosales (P-42) and ARA Drummond (P-31) in addition to several other aircraft and surface vessels. The U.K. Royal Navy ice patrol ship HMS Protector (A173) has also joined the search.

HMS Protector (A173). UK Royal Navy Photo

The search and rescue effort has been hampered by bad weather.

San Juan is one of three Argentine Armada submarines. The German-built TR-1700 attack boat joined the fleet in 1985 and completed a midlife upgrade in 2013, U.S. Naval Institute’s Combat Fleets of the World author Eric Wertheim told USNI News on Friday.

The following is the complete U.S. Southern Command statement.

U.S. NAVY TO DEPLOY UNDERSEA RESCUE CAPABILITIES TO ARGENTINA

NAVAL STATION MAYPORT, Fla. – The U.S. Navy has ordered its Undersea Rescue Command (URC) based in San Diego, Calif., to deploy to Argentina, Nov. 18 to support the South American nation’s ongoing search for the Argentinean Navy submarine A.R.A. San Juan in the Southern Atlantic.

URC is deploying two independent rescue assets based on a number of factors, including the varying depth of ocean waters near South America’s southeastern coast and the differing safe operating depths of the two rescue systems.

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 (SRC) and underwater intervention Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) from Miramar to Comodoro Rivadavia, Argentina. The four aircraft are scheduled to depart Miramar Nov. 18 and arrive in Argentina Nov. 19.

The second rescue system, the Pressurized Rescue Module (PRM) and supporting equipment will be transported via additional flights and is scheduled to arrive in Argentina early next week.

The SRC is a McCann rescue chamber designed during World War II and still used today. SRC can rescue up to six persons at a time and reach a bottomed submarine at depths of 850 feet. The PRM 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. The PRM 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 URC Sailors deploying with the rescue systems are highly trained on its use and routinely exercise employing the advanced technology in submarine rescue scenarios.

The U.S. government is supporting a request from the government of Argentina for international assistance to the ongoing search for the missing submarine and possible rescue opportunities once the vessel and crew are located.

A Navy P-8A Poseidon multi-mission maritime aircraft and a NASA P-3 research aircraft are already in Argentina assisting ongoing search efforts near the submarine’s last known location.

  • NEC338x

    Just read an Agence France-Presse tweet that there may have been an emergency transmitter detected. Prayers for the sailors families.

  • CharleyA

    Wishing Good Luck for all those involved.

  • DaSaint

    Heard that there may have been 4 transmissions detected. The TR-1700 was a well-designed diesel-electric submarine, actually one of the best of the ’80s. Hopefully they are found and rescued safely, but I think the storm is the real issue, which may have prevented them from running surfaced.

  • vincedc

    Just curious….whatever happened to the DSRV?

    • Ed L

      retired in 2000 (dsrv-2) and 2008 dsrv-1

  • vincedc

    My gut says you are right, but for all the people who think everything needs a cost benefit analysis, and dollars are a uniform measurement for everything on the planet, think of this as hands on training for situations when it happens to one of our subs. I wonder what the public would say if the navy gave up after four days for an American submarine

    • Stephen

      We searched the Scorpion for years; we knew she was gone. Still we searched. Thank you, Dr. Ballard. Thoughts & prayers for those families.

      • Secundius

        The Research Vessel “Mizar”, found the Remains of USS Scorpion in October 1968. Approximately 400nmi. Southwest of the Azores under ~9,843-feet of water. The Bathyscaphe “Trieste II” was sent down to retrieve as much of the Scorpion as possible…

  • Ed L

    Never say they are dead until that sub is found and confirmed. it’s bad luck, defeatist and disrespectful. Looks like MAD, Sonar and the location of the buoy that the government of Argentina is saying has been detected. Remember the 1939 rescue with the sinking of USS Squalus 33 surviving crew members were rescued from a depth of over 240 feet

  • Secundius

    I suspect a “Bad Weld”! In 2008 to 2013 the “ARA San Juan” went into Drydock of a “Routine” Maintenance Upgrade. For the Upgrade the Submarine was “Cut In Half) to get to the Diesel Engines and Replace them with New MTU Diesels. The Interesting Part of the Story was that the Total Cost was LESS than ~$13-Million USD. for a 6-year long Maintenance Upgrade. Argentina’s Economy is in a “Shambles”, and the Argentine Navy is FAR from RICH from doing Maintenance Repairs. I suspect that a Bad Weld by an Inexperienced Person NOT Familiar with Welding Submarine Hulls was used. In the United States, a Minimum of 4-years as an Apprentice and another 5-years as a Trained Journeyman is required before your even allowed to “Weld” on a Submarines Hull…

  • publius_maximus_III

    Thank you, Swede Momsen, USN. May you R.I.P. You developed many of the rescue tools and techniques still in use today. It used to be when a sub went down and was unable to surface, that’s all she wrote. Then Swede got involved, and the rest is history.