It was a routine misson, if any submarine mission can be classed as “routine.” The ARA San Juan, a diesel-electric sub that is around 30 years old, was headed back to its Mar del Plata base after a mission to Ushuaia. It disappeared with 44 people on board.
No one has been able to reach the submarine since Wednesday. International rescuers from Britain, Chile and the United States, including NASA have been scouring the area, looking for signs of the vessel. But as of Saturday morning, there were no signs either of surface debris or sonar contact.
“The last position [registered] was two days ago. Without wanting to be alarmist or overdramatic, the facts are that no form of communications could be established between the vessel and its command, even with the alternative methods that the submarine has…What we interpret is that there must have been a serious problem with the communications [infrastructure] or with the electrical supply, cables, antennae or other equipment.” Argentine Navy spokesman Enrique Balbi
NASA sent a P-3 Orion aircraft that was based out of Ushuaia to aid in the search. The US Navy has deployed its P8-A Poseidon aircraft to assist as well.
“The P-8A Poseidon is the Navy’s newest maritime, patrol and reconnaissance aircraft and is configured with state-of-the-art sensors and communications equipment, allowing it to support a wide range of missions over large bodies of water, including sub-surface search-and-rescue operations.” US Navy Statement Saturday morning
The P-8A- Poseidon…the submarine killer
The National Interest blog wrote:
The Poseidon’s primary payload is its diverse array of sensors. These include an APY-10 multi-mode synthetic aperture radar, which not only can track the position of ships over hundreds of miles away, but possesses a high-resolution mode which can spot submarine periscopes poking above the waves and even identify different classes of ships. An MX-20 electro-optical/infrared turret provides a shorter-range search option, while an ALQ-240 Electronic Support Measure (ESM) derived from a system onboard the EA-18G Growler functions as an electromagnetic sensor, particularly useful in tracking the positions of radar emitters.
That’s why they call it the “submarine killer.” Can it also be a submarine finder?
The ARA San Juan submarine has adequate food and oxygen, according to the commander of the Mar Del Plata base. The people with family members on board the sub are hoping it’s just a communications problem and not something worse. But with every passing moment, the outlook grows dimmer.