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AR.A Safta Type-209 submarine

The Argentine Submarine Force at the time of the 1982 Malvinas war consisted of four diesel powered submarines. They had two Guppy Class submarines that were purchased from the United States: the ARA Santa Fe, ex-USS Catfish(SS-339), and the AR.A Santiago del Estero, ex-USS Chivo (SS-341). These both had 10 torpedo tubes; six forward and four aft. The other two boats in their force were both Type 209 submarines; the AR.A Safta and the AR.A San Luis. These were built in Germany, had eight forward torpedo tubes, and are considered the German's most successful export design.

At the start of the conflict half of the Argentine submarines were not operational. The Safta was in a major yard availability. The required work was completed rapidly and she put to sea for trials. During her sea trials, Safta made excessive noise. This made her too easy to find and she was returned to the yard for repairs. These repairs were not completed until after the conflict ended and thus she did not enter the war. The Santiago del Estero was not fit for submerged operations. She had been decommissioned in September 1981 and was in use as a static training ship at the submarine base at Mar del Plata.

During the Falklands War, although the Argentine Type-209 submarine San Luis was unsuccessful in its attacks on British warships, it did elude the best ASW efforts of the British Navy. The Argentine submarine had an inexperienced and poorly trained crew. Nevertheless, it spent almost seven weeks at sea, operated up to 800 nautical miles from its operating base, conducted two attacks on British warships, and survived the conflict. Failure of both single-shot torpedo attacks conducted by the San Luis was attributed to maintenance problems (fire control computer casualties) and training deficiencies (torpedo control wires were broken prematurely).

The massive British ASW effort against this single conventionally-powered submarine was unsuccessful. Numerous British assets were dedicated to the effort including two ASW aircraft carriers and over a dozen frigates and destroyers. During the course of the conflict, the British expended over 200 items of ASW ordnance against this one submarine and what was described as a "sea full of false targets.

Traditionally, the submarine has been the preferred ASW weapon; however, it is extremely difficult to coordinate surface and submarine ASW efforts. The required communications between the involved surface ships and submarines and the identification of friendly submarines significantly impedes the detection, classification,and identification of enemy submarines. The British submarines that were deployed to the theater during the Falklands War were not integrated into a coordinated ASW effort. In fact, these submarines were specifically kept out of the area to eliminate the possibility of fratricide and allow for an "ASW weapons free" zone for surface and air assets to prosecute the enemy submarine.

San Luis started a major overhaul in 1991 but the work was cancelled and the ship was decommissioned and discarded in 1997.

# Name Manufactured launched
S-31 Salta Howaldswerke, Kiel November 9, 1972
S-32 San Luis Howaldswerke, Kiel24 May 1974

Displacement Surface: 1140 Tn - In Immersion: 1248 Tn
Length 56 Mts.
Diameter Casco Resistant 5.5 Mts.
  • 4 motors Diesel MTU 12 V 2400 HP.
  • 4 alternators 1.7 Mw
  • VARTA batteries (480 elements)
  • Electric Propulsion Motor (MEP) 3,36Mw.
  • Armament 8 torpedo tubes in the bow
  • Torpedoes SST-4 - driverless.
  • Modernized in Argentine shipyards in 1995

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    Page last modified: 20-01-2015 19:01:36 ZULU