An Argentinian submarine that went missing last year has been discovered in the bottom of the South Atlantic Ocean.
ARA San Juan (S-42) disappeared on November 15, 2017, with all 44 crew members. Almost to the day a year later, the Argentinian Navy is confident that it has found the wreckage. The missing sub appears to have settled more than 2,500 feet deep, 373 miles east of Comodoro Rivadavia, which is situated near the Argentine section of Patagonia.
The U.S. salvage and seabed survey company, Ocean Infinity, led the detection efforts. The discovery happened with a remotely operated submersible operated by the American ship Seabed Constructor. Using five Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs), and a team of more than 60 people — that included Argentine Navy officers, family members, and numerous specialists in underwater operations — Ocean Infinity managed to locate the wreckage within the sixty-days commitment that it had agreed upon.
In a statement, Oliver Plunkett, the CEO of Ocean Infinity, acknowledged the significant assistance that his team and the Argentinian Navy received from the international community.
“We have received a huge amount of help from many parties who we would like to thank. We are particularly grateful to the Argentinian Navy whose constant support and encouragement was invaluable. In addition, the United Kingdom’s Royal Navy … Numerous others, including the U.S. Navy’s Supervisor of Salvage and Diving, have supported us with expert opinion and analysis.”
More than a dozen countries assisted in both the initial search and rescue attempts, and the subsequent discovery efforts. The U.S. Navy sent P-3 Orion surveillance aircraft and destroyers. The Royal Navy sent a special rescue team of divers. Canada contributed a C-144 transport aircraft with special oxygen devices that can extend operation underwater.
The discovery was announced just two days after families of the missing sailors held a one-year commemoration service. Interestingly, Ocean Infinity agreed to undertake the search operation for 60 days without any payment until it discovered ARA San Juan.
In Argentina, the disappearance of the submarine and the loss of all 44 crewmen had caused a domestic political crisis. Politicians from all parts of the ideological spectrum clashed over the responsibility for the tragedy. The Argentine government responded with a full-fledged investigation, which led to law enforcement raids on numerous naval bases and the dismissal of the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Marcelo Srur.
Argentinian President Mauricio Macri re-emphasised his “absolute and non-negotiable commitment to the truth.”
ARA San Juan was a TR-1700 class conventional submarine. It had a diesel-electric propulsion system. It was built in Germany and was commissioned in 1985.