After a month and a half of continuous involvement, the United States has begun to draw down its operations assisting the search for the lost Argentine submarine ARA San Juanin the South Atlantic.
The sub and her 44 crewmembers went missing off Patagonia on November 15, and the U.S. Navy said that it learned of the casualty on November 17. American forces joined the search effort within 24 hours of notification. U.S. contributions to the search and rescue effort included three advanced aircraft, over 200 search and rescue personnel, four submersibles, one specialized underwater rescue unit, one ship, and more than 400 sonar buoys dropped in support of the operation.
Additionally, the U.S. provided an advanced sonar system, which was mounted on Argentine search vessels. U.S. planning and analytical specialists supported the efforts through data analysis, an effort that will continue.
The U.S. support team completed all searches in areas assigned by the Argentine Navy, sweeping each area twice with advanced sensors. However, this international effort has not yet located the ARA San Juan.
“On behalf of the people of the United States, we offer our respects to the families of the crew of ARA San Juan and the people of Argentina,” said Rear Adm. Daniel B. Abel, director of operations, U.S. Southern Command.
The Navy-owned, university-operated research vessel Atlantis has returned to port, and the Russian vessel Yantar is the only international ship left participating in the search. By Wednesday, the last three likely sonar contacts in the search area had been investigated by the Yantar’s ROV, without success.
This week, Argentina’s senate unanimously approved a measure to create a joint commission to investigate the loss of the San Juan. Six congressional deputies, six senators, five subject matter experts and a group of family members will form the panel.
The ARA San Juan’s last known location was about 300 miles off Argentina’s southern coast. The submarine reported a malfunction after seawater entered the vessel’s snorkel and caused a battery to short-circuit. An explosion was detected around the time and place that the submarine last made contact. Given the amount of time that has elapsed since her disappearance, authorities have given up hope of finding survivors.