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Argentina - Submarines

Vessels in service with the Argentine Navy in 1985 included four submarines two Type 209s, and two Type TR-1700s all of West German design. The newest of these were the Type TR-1700 diesel-electric models, the Santa Cruz and the San Juan, which were delivered in late 1984 and early 1985.

The Type TR-1700s were said to be the most technically advanced conventional submarines in service anywhere in the mid-1980s. Four additional Type TR-1700s were scheduled to be built in Argentina under a licensing agreement with the manufacturer, Thyssen Noordseewerke. The keel of the first of these was said to have been laid down at a Buenos Aires shipyard in October 1983. ARA SANTA FE (S-43), SANTIAGO DEL ESTERO ARA (S-44) and ARA S-45 were under construction, but the construction was canceled and reserved for spare parts.

The TR 1700-class submarine Santa Cruz (S41) has undergone a mid-life modernisation at the Arsenal do Marinha de Rio de Janeiro, presumably between September 1999 and 2002. TR 1700-class submarine San Juan (S-42) arrived at Astillero Domecq Garcia on 16 August 2007 to commence a mid-life refit which reportedly would last 22 months. Between June 2004 and September 2005, the Type 209 submarine Salta (S31) had a battery exchange and general overhaul at the Ministro Domecq Garcia Shipyard.

On 09 September 2014, the Minister of Defense, Agustn Rossi, signed an agreement with the General Manager of INVAP S.E. (an Argentine state-owned applied research company), Hctor Otheguy, to modernize and restore the shipping system in the context of the Research and Development Progressive Program carried out by the Navy and the company. The relation with INVAP has allowed Argentina to implement scientific and technological developments of its own. This agreement is part of a long-term public policy pursued by our government since 2003, the Minister pointed out.

The two documents signed lay down the bases to modernize and increase the potency of four Meko 360 corvettes and two TR-1700 submarines, the "Santa Cruz" and the "San Juan". Argentine submarines may be encountered by day or at night while operating in the waters off the coast. Under certain circumstances, warnings that submarines are exercising in specified areas may be broadcast by local coastal radio stations. A submarine exercise area off Mar del Plata is bounded by lines joining the following positions:

a. 3800'S, 5500'W.
b. 3800'S, 5721'W.
c. 3835'S, 5721'W.
d. 3835'S, 5500'W.
Submerged submarines operate, in depths of 30 to 55m, off the coast between Querandi Light (3728'S., 5707'W.) and Quequen Light, 100 miles SW. Submarines exercise is an area between latitudes 4230'S and 4340'S and between longitude 6200'W and the coast. Submarines operate within the waters of Golfo Nuevo (4246'S., 6430'W.).

Submarines may be encountered on the surface at night off the coast. The steaming and side lights of Argentine submarines appear to be placed well forward and very low above the water in proportion to the length and tonnage of these vessels. In particular, the emergency steaming light is lower than the side lights. The overtaking light (stern) is also placed low down and may be obscured by spray and wash. Argentine submarines are fitted with an amber quick-flashing light situated 1 to 2m above the steaming light as an aid to identification. It will also be used when snorting. While at anchor or moored to a buoy at night, Argentine submarines display normal anchor lights.

The overall arrangements of submarine lights is unusual and may well give the impression of markedly smaller and shorter vessels. Their vulnerability to collision when proceeding on the surface dictates particular caution when approaching such vessels.

A submarine which is bottomed and unable to surface will try to indicate its position by the following methods:

  1. Releasing an indicator buoy (which carries a vertical whip aerial) as soon as the accident occurs.
  2. Firing candles giving off yellow or white smoke, at regular intervals, on the approach of surface vessels. (Yellow candles will be used as much as possible by day.)
  3. Pumping out fuel or lubricating oil.

It may be impossible for a submarine to fire smoke candles. Correspondingly, a partially-flooded submarine may only have a certain number of smoke candles available and searching ships should not therefore expect many to appear.

Since oil slicks or debris may be the only indication of the presence or whereabouts of the sunken submarine, it is vitally important that surface ships refrain from discharging anything which appears to have come from a submarine while they are in the probability area. Searching ships and aircraft can waste valuable time investigating these false contacts. Some Argentine submarine pyrotechnics can be fitted with message carriers. These may be recovered as soon as they have finished burning.

Argentine submarines are fitted with a free-floating indicator buoy which can be released from inside in case of emergencies or if for any reason the submarine is unable to surface. In any submarine accident, time is the most vital factor affecting the chances for rescue of the survivors, and, as the sighting of an indicator buoy may be the first intimation that an accident has in fact occurred, it is vital that no time should be lost in taking action.

However, if vessels are unable to establish communication without leaving the vicinity of the submarine, it should be borne in mind that the primary consideration should be for vessels to remain standing by to rescue survivors and not leave the scene of the accident.

At any time after a submarine accident, survivors may start attempting to escape. Current policy dictates that survivors will wait before escaping until rescue vessels are known to be standing by or conditions inside the submarine deteriorate to such an extent that an escape must be attempted. It should be noted that, in certain circumstances, the latter situation may not arise through lack of air supply until several days after the accident. However, if the submarine is badly damaged, survivors may have to make an escape attempt immediately. On arrival at the surface, crew members may be exhausted or ill, and, if circumstances permit, the presence of a boat already lowered is very desirable. Some crew members may require a decompression chamber. Therefore, it is the aim of the authorities to get such a chamber to the scene as soon as possible.

In order that those trapped in the submarine shall be made aware that help is at hand, naval vessels drop small charges into the sea which can be heard from inside the submarine. There is no objection to the use of small charges for this purpose, but it is vital that they are not dropped too close since crew members in the process of making ascents are particularly vulnerable to underwater explosions, and may easily receive fatal injuries. A distance of about 0.3 mile is considered to be safe. If no small charges are available, the running of an echo sounder or the banging of the outer skin of the ship's hull with a hammer from a position below the waterline are likely to be heard in the submarine, and such banging and/or sounding should therefore be carried out at frequent intervals.

Agentine submarines are equipped with free-floating indicator buoys. It is therefore of the utmost importance that the position, together with the estimated current and the strength and direction of the wind at that position; and the time of first sighting of the buoy be accurately and speedily reported to the appropriate authorities.

The Argentine submarine free-floating indicator buoy is made of aluminum. The body is cylindrical, 60cm long, approximately 20cm in diameter, and slightly domed on top. The base of the body flares out to a diameter of 23cm. It is bolted onto the buoy by means of eight-16cm bolts. Along the body there are three extensions which strengthen the structure and also act as guides to the strap with which the buoy is secured to the submarine. The whole of the body is painted bright orange. Between the base and the lower extension, a number is molded into the buoy with numerals 1cm in size. Another number with numerals 0.5cm in size appears close below the first. Above the body is an aerial consisting of a yellow painted protection piece consisting of a metal cylinder, 14cm long and 9cm in diameter; a rubber protection piece, about 18cm long, which protects the flexible connection between the buoy and an insulator, 9cm long, on top of it; and a VHF aerial, 25cm long, which has a small white plastic knob on the end of it.

The buoys are fitted with an automatic transmitting radio unit operating an A2 transmission on 243MHz and 121.5MHz. The signal transmitted consists of a series of short dashes. Vessels receiving this signal should report the fact, giving their position and, if possible, an indication of signal strength. Submarine indicator buoys should not be confused with white or yellow smoke candles or sonabuoys.

White smoke candles are usually fired from submarines to indicate their positions. They burn for up to 15 minutes emitting white smoke, flame, and a green dye into the water. These candles can be seen by day or at night and may easily be confused with aircraft marine markers. Yellow smoke candles are also fired from submarines to indicate their positions. They burn for about 5 minutes emitting yellow smoke. These candles can be seen more easily than white smoke candles in rough weather, but they cannot be seen at night. Sonabuoys are dropped from aircraft to detect submarines and may be encountered anywhere at sea.

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Page last modified: 19-05-2016 20:26:59 ZULU