US Navy sends underwater robots to assist in search for Argentine sub [Updated]

An Iver Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV), here being used as part of Exercise Eager Lion with the Royal Jordanian Navy in 2015 in a mine countermeasures role. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Arthurgwain L. Marquez

A US Navy Bluefin AUV is deployed from a ship in 2014 in support of the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Peter D. Blair

A Submarine Rescue Chamber, also known as a McCann Chamber, is loaded aboard a cargo plane for transport in this Navy 2008 photo. US Navy

A Navy Pressurized Rescue Module (PRM) is on its way to Argentina. This system is used for deep-water rescues the SRC can’t handle. US Navy

US Navy P-8 Poseidon patrol planes have joined an international search for the Argentine Armada submarine San Juan , and the Navy has prepared submarine rescue vehicles and four uncrewed underwater vehicles (UUVs) to assist in the search as well. The Argentine sub has been missing in the Argentine Sea, and the subsequent search is entering its fifth day.

One Naval P-8 arrived in Argentina over the weekend, and another is arriving today. Additional rescue systems are now on their way, including a NATO submarine rescue system. Thus far, rough weather and high seas have been hindering the search, and hopes for the missing crew are fading.

The San Juan, a German-built sub, had a crew of 44—including Argentina’s first woman submarine officer. The vessel went out of contact while en route from the islands of Argentina’s Tierra del Fuego to the Armada Argentina’s northern base at Mar del Plata. Previously, the modern diesel-electric sub, built in 1983 and put into service in 1985, went through a mid-life overhaul, completed in 2013. The sub’s primary role has been intelligence collection, including surveillance of fishing grounds in Argentina’s economic zone for illegal fishing operations.

The Navy’s Poseidon patrol aircraft can deploy sonobuoys from the air to search for submerged submarines; these tube-launched buoys expand underwater into an array of sonar sensors that can get well below the surface layers of the ocean to either actively “ping” or quietly listen for sounds from a submarine. It also carries a powerful surface-scanning radar system, but the aircraft lacks the magnetic anomaly detection gear carried by its predecessor, the P-3 Orion.

The Navy patrol planes join the NASA P-3 Orion “flying lab” that had been in Argentina for Operation IceBridge. Other vehicles assisting the search include a Brazilian P-3 and EADS CASA C-295 multi-purpose aircraft, a Chilean CASA C-295, multiple Argentine naval and air force aircraft (including two Grumman S-2E Tracker submarine warfare aircraft and C-130s), and the British Navy’s ice patrol ship HMS Protector .

In hopes of assisting if the submarine is located, a unit from the US Navy’s Undersea Rescue Command (URC) deployed to Argentina on Saturday with a Submarine Rescue Chamber—a diving bell designed to dock with the escape hatch of a […]