The Argentine Armada announced Thursday afternoon there is no hope of rescuing the 44 sailors on its missing submarine, and the navy is now moving to a secondary phase to recover ARA San Juan and its presumed-deceased crew.
The international search has so far scanned 557,000 square nautical miles of the South Atlantic Ocean surface and 1,049,479 square nautical miles undersea through radar exploration, without any contact with San Juan or finding evidence of the sub’s location such as life rafts or debris, according to an Argentine Navy statement announcing the conclusion of rescue efforts.
“The world’s most advanced technologies found no evidence of shipwreck in the areas explored,” the Argentine Navy said, according to a translated version of the statement.
“Having analyzed all the evidences received by the own units and by the different countries and agencies that have participated in the operation, the Ministry of Defense and the Argentine Navy announce that they will continue with the next phase, which includes the search of the submarine ARA San Juan.”
The Argentine Navy last received a communication from San Juan 15 days ago, more than twice the amount of time the Argentine Navy said the crew could likely survive submerged.
Hopes for finding survivors had waned in recent days based on reports an explosion was detected near the sub’s last known location; the reality of likely-dwindling oxygen supplies; and more details emerging about the last communication from San Juan detailing how the sub took on water, causing a short circuit of the batteries in the front of the sub.
The international effort included 28 ships, including 16 from the Argentine Navy; nine aircraft, including three from the Argentine Navy and two U.S. Navy Boeing P-8A Poseidon aircraft; 4,000 search and rescue personnel, including 3,200 Argentine Navy sailors; and support from 18 countries.
Along with the P-8A Poseidon aircraft, the U.S. Navy sent undersea search and rescue teams to assist international search effort. The Navy search equipment included four unmanned vehicles used to scour underwater for clues to missing sub’s location. The recently established Unmanned Undersea Vehicle Squadron (UUVRON) 1 brought to Argentina one Bluefin-12D (Deep) unmanned undersea vehicle (UUV) and three Iver 580 UUVs.
The U.S. Navy also sent its Undersea Rescue Command to Argentina. The command had a couple of vehicles that could have been used to rescue San Juan crew members – either a Submarine Rescue Chamber (SRC) or a Pressurized Rescue Module (PRM).