U.S. Navy joins search for missing Argentine sub

The United States has deployed aircraft to Argentina to help search for ARA San Juan, an Argentine navy submarine that went missing in the South Atlantic Ocean almost a week ago.

Six C-17 Globemasters and three C-5M Super Galaxies flew 26 sorties, transporting 81 passengers — including sailors assigned to Undersea Rescue Command out of San Diego — and 830,000 pounds of equipment, according to Air Mobility Command.

The first of the aircraft, three C-17s and one C-5, arrived in Comodoro Rivadavia, Argentina, on Sunday. One of the C-17s carried a tow bar, a Tunner 60K Aircraft Cargo Loader and three members of the 437th Aerial Port Squadron from Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina. The team conducted runway assessments before other equipment arrived in Argentina.

One of the C-5s, from Travis Air Force Base in California, stopped at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar to pick up a Submarine Rescue Chamber (SRC) and an underwater Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV), according to a news release from AMC.

A second rescue system, the Pressurized Rescue Module, was scheduled to arrive in Argentina on Monday.

The SRC is a rescue chamber designed during World War II. It can rescue six people at a time and reach a bottomed submarine at depths of 850 feet. The PRM, by comparison, can recover 16 people at a time at a depth of 2,000 feet.

Both assets are operated by a crew of two and mate with the submarine by sealing over the submarine’s hatch, allowing sailors to safely transition to the rescue chamber.

Aircraft and airmen from the 436th Airlift Wing at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware; the 62nd Airlift Wing at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington; and the 176th Wing at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, also deployed to support the rescue effort.

“Helping others is in Air Mobility Command’s DNA,” Gen. Carlton Everhart, AMC’s commander, said in the release. “Our airmen recognize the critical nature of the mission and as requirements expanded we moved to expedite delivery of increased capability to the U.S. Navy and our Argentine friends.”

The Navy has deployed unmanned underwater vehicles to join in the search, according to a Navy news release.

This includes a Bluefin 12D (Deep) UUV and three Iver 580 UUVS from the Unmanned Undersea Vehicle Squadron 1 out of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The UUVs can deploy quickly and search wide areas of the ocean using Side Scan Sonar, which creates an image of larger areas of the sea floor.

A Navy P-8A Poseidon aircraft joined a NASA P-3 Orion research aircraft to search for the missing submarine over its last known location.

The U.S. government is supporting a request from the government of Argentina for international assistance in the search for the missing submarine, as well as possible rescue opportunities once the submarine and crew are located, according to U.S. Southern Command.

The ARA San Juan submarine and its 44 crew members were last heard from on Wednesday as it journeyed from the southern port of Ushuaia to the coastal city of Mar del Plata.

Charlsy is a Reporter and Engagement Manager for Military Times. Email her at cpanzino@militarytimes.com.

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