The vessel’s captain said water had entered through the snorkel when the sub was charging batteries. He said the water entered through the ventilation system to a battery connection tray in the prow and “caused a short circuit and the beginning of a fire, or smoke without flame.”
The Argentine Navy played their cards close to the chest when it came to playing to the public. The original information releases were that the ARA San Juan, an Argentine submarine of German manufacture simply went missing ‘somewhere in the South Atlantic’.
Since the boat is equipped with an emergency rescue buoy and in as much as it had not been deployed, the outcome was not good from the outset.
Today we’ve learned that the Argentine submarine that vanished 12 days ago sent a final, desperate message reporting a short-circuiting battery and fire onboard.
The seas were rough and they headed for port while submerged using another battery system. There was an explosion that had been detected (likely detected by a US SOSUS array, but detection attributed to a NASA P-3 conducting arctic-related studies in the area).
Families of the 44 member crew, based at Mar del Plata, have told the media that their sailors complained that the boat was essentially a death trap and a piece of junk. That squares with my own personal opinion, (so I report it here). The Argentine Navy is proud of the vessel, commissioned in 1985, and refit (in part) in 2014. The refit was a ‘short refit’ because of funding deficits, so much of what should have been done was not.
The lesson for readers to take away is that there are no acceptable half measures where naval maintenance or training are involved. If the boat and crew are not 100%, the submarine should not leave the dock. Surface ships can be more forgiving because there are usually means available to abandon ship. Submarines have escape trunks. I’ve locked out of an escape trunk both in training and operationally and it works if you’re in relatively shallow water. Unfortunately the ocean is mostly deep. (trying to keep it simple here)
The years of Obamanation saw a situation where roughly 70% of the Marine Corps’ F-18’s were grounded for lack of spare parts to keep them flying. We’ve seen situations develop with the F-35 that make it’s debut worrisome (both because it’s ruinously expensive and because some of what is being built doesn’t work). Ship maintenance was delayed and deferred because the nation needed them at see to serve the nation’s urgent defense needs. Crew training and rotation was neglected. America is not Argentina. The US Navy is not the Argentine Navy. President Trump is not Barack Hussein Obama. HOWEVER there is a lesson with the loss of the ARA San Juan that needs to be internalized by the American public.
My condolences go to the families of the 44 brave men who set out on a ship that was likely unfit to sail.