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ARA Santa Cruz SSK - TR-1700

By 2017 the Argentine navys three submarines had reportedly spent so few days at sea that an analysis by Janes Sentinel Security Assessment-South America argued that Argentina had effectively lost its subsurface capability.

In 1977 Argentina signed an agreement with Thyssen Nordseewerke of Germany to supply six submarines, two TR-1700s built in Germany, two in Argentina and two smaller TR-1400s also to be built in Argentina. This agreement was modified in 1982 to six TR-1700s. The first two submarines, the Santa Cruz and San Juan, were delivered on schedule in 1984-85. These 2,300-ton submarine are 68.6 meters long and 8 meters in diameter, the largest submarines built in Germany since World War II.

These submarines, which were originally manufactured in the Thyssen shipyards in Germany, can reach a speed of 14 knots. The hull is made with HY-80 steal, an alloy that provides the strength necessary to support the elevated pressures in the deep sea, but which demands greater precision in the welding.

It was expected that this TR-1700-class submarine will be suitable for use in case of armed conflict, but also to protect the marine resources threatened by fishing vessels that operate illegally.

The remaining four were suspended during the Argentinian economic crisis of the 1980s. The Santa Fe submarine was at least 52% finished (70% according to El Argentino website) when work on it stopped in 1994. It was since cannibalized to provide spare-parts for the Santa Cruz and San Juan. By 2010 Argentina was planning to finish building the Santa Fe. Reportedly the TR-1700 could incorporate a nuclear reactor before 2020.

Recovered by the State in 2007, the shipyard Tandanor repaired the San Juan submarine. The shipyard Tandanor delivered the San Juan submarine to the Argentine Navy, after the mid-life repair works that took about five years. The handover became effective in an official presentation, where the minister of Defense, Agustn Rossi, took part. The next step will be transferring the submarine to Mar del Platas naval base, where the sea trials would be carried out, because the Ro de La Plata is not deep enough for the immersion tests. The journey would not be underwater, and reaching the destination will take three days. Its 36-person crew was eager to start the voyage.

Santa Cruz - Mid-life Repair

The submarine Santa Cruz arrived to Tandanor in 2007, and the repair works started the following year. To carry them out, it was necessary to cut the submarines hull in half to be able to remove elements that could not pass through the only two hatches the submarine has, which are 80 cm in diameter. Among other elements, four 1200 kW diesel engines connected to four 4000 ampere alternators were removed, as well as the submarines 6400 kW electric motor and its 960 batteries.

This maneuver had to be performed with extreme precision, because the welding needed to rejoin the parts had to bear the pressure at an immersion depth of 300 meters, the maximum pressure recommended for this submarine: 30 kilograms per square centimeter, that is, an elephants weight in every rectangle of 10 by 20 centimeters. For this reason, the preparations for the cut took a month, and the final welding, a month of continuous work in 24-hour working days.

Piping, wiring and the navigation radar were also changed; all the parts of the submarine were cleaned, and there were changes performed to the primary computer, which manages the target precision calculator and the telemetry, among other things.

The handover signaled the recovery of Tandanor, which was privatized in 1991, went bankrupt in 1999, and, from then on, resisted because of the 150 workers who did not want to abandon the shipyard. In 2007 it was re-nationalized and it started to recover its capacities. It was much cheaper that the mid-life repairs to the Santa Cruz submarine, which were carried out in 2001 in Brazil, because we did not have the capacity to do them in Argentina, states doctor Mario Fadel, Tandanors president.

To start the works, it was necessary to look for and hire the workers who had been in the shipyard for the submarines construction project in the late sixties, and who had the necessary knowledge to do the job and to train young people to carry on with the task. Thanks to this new generation of young workers and the regained capacities, the arrival of the Santa Cruz submarine was expected, for general repair and maintenance works. There is also the goal to continue building the Santa Fe submarine, which was abandoned after Tandanors privatization, when it was still under construction.

San Juan - Mid-life Repair

In 2008 the San Juan began a mid-life repair, starting with two years of engineering work in the Argentine Naval Industrial Complex [CINAR]. In order to replace the engines, it was necessary to the cut hull of the boat in half with oxy-cetelene torches and seperate it into two halves. In addition, four MTU 16-cylinder V-powered and 1,200 kW-rated MTU diesel engines were replaced by 4,000-amp alternators.

The electric motors responsible for the movement of the propeller received an integral maintenance - complete disarming, cleaning, measurement, calibration and subsequent reassembly - with a replacement of the assemblies that dampen the vibration. The integral repair of each one of the 960 batteries that make the submarine work and the valves and other mechanisms were repaired.

President Cristina Fernndez de Kirchner participated in the afternoon of 27 September 2011, the festivities to finalize the half-life repair of Submarino ARA S42 San Juan, the chief of the General Staff of the Argentine Navy, Admiral Jorge Omar Godoy welcomed the president. The ceremony took place at the facilities of the Complejo Industrial Naval Argentino (CINAR), made up of TANDANOR and Almirante Storni (formerly Domecq shipyard), specially built for the production of the TR1700 submarines, located in Costanera Sur, in the City of Buenos Aires.

"Today we are finishing what is called the major tasks for the" half-life repair "of the submarine ARA S42 San Juan, which was launched in 1983, and begins the preparation stage," President Fernandez de Kirchner explained during the ceremony. She also mentioned in her speech the intention, in the immediate future, of assembling the ARA Santa Fe submarine, which had been paralyzed since the end of the 1980s.

The President said that "a sector that was considered totally lost is being launched"; and affirmed that "Argentina has begun to play a role that should never have been abandoned", while praising "the work of technicians, scientists, workers and engineers". The president indicated that the major work of the submarine ARA San Juan was carried out entirely by Argentine technicians, in contrast to what had happened years ago when a twin vessel "had to be repaired in Brazil" because "the naval industry had been dismantled".

Once completed its maintenance, which included the incorporation of a portable navigation radar, communications equipment and a plotter, the ARA San Juan returned to sea. In the report of the works described by the shipyard Tandanor it was indicated that "the repair of half life of a submarine is one of the most difficult and complex works in the naval industry". The main difficulty was in cutting the hull to be enable the replacement of the engines. Once that task was completed, motors, batteries were replaced and part of the equipment was renewed so that by the end of 2011 they would "re-attach" the hull segments. The work was definitively concluded in 2014, which allowed the San Juan to resume its maritime patrol activities thereafter. Minister of Defense Agustin Rossi blamed the delay on the lack of funds and qualified labor.

Further Units

The shipyard planned to take up the building of the Santa Fe submarine, abandoned in the nineties. Two further units were laid-up unfinished (Santa-Fe at 52/70 % and Santiago Del Estero at 30%). The Argentine Navy is planning to complete the Santa-Fe (the most advanced of the two hull), or even modify and convert it into nuclear submarine. But the cost of such work, its (relative) small size and more especially the age of the uncompleted hull are, in all cases, this project seems doubtful.

#Name launched notes
S-41 ARA Santa Cruz 28 Sep 1982
S-42 ARA San Juan 20 Jun 1983
S-43 ARA Santa-Fe laid up 52/70 % complete
S-44 ARA Santiago Del Estero laid up 30 % complete
S-45 ARA
S-46 ARA
Displacement Surface 2116 Tn
Displacement Immersion 2264 Tn
Length 65 Mts.
Diameter 7 Mts
  • 4 motors Diesel MTU
  • 16 V 6720 HP.
  • 4 alternators 4.4 Mw
  • VARTA batteries (960 items)
  • Electric Propulsion Motor (MEP) 6.6 Mw.
  • Armament
  • 6 bow torpedo tubes
  • Torpedoes SST-4
  • ARA San Juan ARA San Juan ARA San Juan ARA San Juan ARA San Juan ARA San Juan ARA San Juan ARA San Juan ARA San Juan - November 2017 ARA San Juan - November 2017 ARA San Juan - November 2017

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    Page last modified: 24-06-2018 18:41:16 ZULU