November 19, 2017

San Juan Submarine Messages Likely "Unmanned"

I indicated  (on 18 November 2017) that submarine ( submarino ) ARA San Juan on 15 November 2017 “Likely Sunk With All Hands”. Despite some announcements from the Argentine Defense Ministry (providing some hope or comfort) it is still likely all or most of the crew have been lost.

The Argentine Defense Ministry reported “We received seven signals from satellite calls that originated from the San Juan submarine... The Defense working with an American company that specializes in satellite communication to determine the exact location of the signals."

The [signals] lasted between four and 36 seconds in the late morning and early afternoon on Saturday ([18 November 2017] local time). Apparently, and so far, these signals failed to establish San Juan’s location.

The US has sent one or two small deep submergence rescue submarine systems (see Photo 2 and Artwork below) to Argentina. These systems must be deployed from specially fitted-out ships to operate in the search area.


As indicated in COMMENTS-1 yesterday Emergency Position Indicator Radio Beacons EPIRBs form one means of search and rescue communication that San Juan likely has/had. San Juan may also have even more effective naval floating rescue buoys which may be attached by thin cable to San Juan and automatically released in the event of a serious accident or sinking. No crewman need be alive to release the buoy that then transmits messages/calls/signals automatically.

An EPIRB (see Photo 1 below) is a type of transmitter which can float. An EPIRB's signals, through satellite triangulation, can provide an approximate or exact location of the people or the craft, who manually or automatically turned on the EPIRB.

However, unfortunately an EPIRB/rescue buoy can float and transmit independently of the fate of San Juan:

-  an EPIRB/rescue buoy may have been automatically released by San Juan as San Juan fatally sunk
-  an EPIRB/rescue buoy would normally be programmed to send out regular distress signals, even if there are no human operators present
maybe it is possible some crew may be floating, maybe with an EPIRB
hopefully there is a thin cable (see Photo 1 below) connecting San Juan to an EPIRB/rescue buoy.
-  Such a thin cable may permit exact location of San Juan even if San Juan is on the seafloor
-  if there is no thin cable an EPIRB/rescue buoy may have floated many miles away from San Juan’s, likely seafloor, location
-  as EPIRBs only cost a few hundred dollars they are very commonly carried by ships and even small fishing boats. So their transmissions may not be related to the fate of San Juan.

Photo 1 - A floating Emergency Position Indicator Radio Beacon EPIRB used to indicate location of a sailor in a raft. Note the thin cable connecting EPIRB to raft. If an EPIRB (or similar naval floating rescue buoy) is connected to San Juan there may be some hope. (Photo courtesy .

Photo 2 - Heavy US transport aircraft are reportedly delivering submarine rescue systems to Argentina. A remotely operated, deep diving, pressurized rescue module (PRM) may form part of a the San Juan rescue mission (Photo courtesy US Navy via USNI)
Artwork - It is also likely the US Navy has flown Bluefin-21 or similar autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) to Argentina to aid in the search for San Juan. AUVs can “see” submarines on the seafloor using side-scan sonar and other sensors. (Image courtesy General Dynamics Marine Systems).

Submarine ARA San Juan was travelling north from Ushuaia to the main submarine base at Mar Del Plata when it vanished (Map courtesy the Daily Mail (Australia Edition).


November 18, 2017

Argentine Submarine San Juan Likely Sunk With All Hands

See Submarine Matter's latest report on the San Juan tragedy at Some Hope San Juan Submarine Crew Sending Messages - But Unlikely, of 19 November 2017 - that is at

On Friday, 17 November 2017 it was announced the Argentine submarine ARA San Juan had not been heard from for over 48 hours. San Juan was in the southern Argentine sea 250 miles from Argentina's Patagonian coast when it sent its last signal on Wednesday, 15 November 2017 (Partly based on Wikipedia). Specifically San Juan last reported in when it was en route from the Ushuaia naval base to the Mar del Plata base (where Argentina's submarine force is home based).[8] 

The search and rescue operations had been launched some 220 miles southeast of San Jorge Gulf.[7]  The initial search and rescue operation was carried out by the destroyer Sarandi and the corvettes Rosales and Drummond, supported by two S-2E Tracker surveillance aircraft.[9] A US P-3 Orion maritime patrol plane (equipped with a magnetometergravimeter, and other sensors) has joined the search[12] and the UK has offered assistance in the form of a C-130 Hercules based in the Falkland Islands.[13]

Brazilian website advised on 18 November 2017 that US military Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) directed the US Navy to deploy Poseidon P-8A multi-mission maritime aircraft to Bahia Blanca, Argentina, on 18 November to search for San Juan.

Through an Argentine news site Pope Francisco, who is Argentinian, encouraged efforts to find San Juan.

There are at least 44 people on board San Juan.[10] Among them is Argentina's first female submarine officer, Eliana María Krawczyk.[11]


Generally and unfortunately submarines that have been "lost" for 2 to 3 days have sunk with all hands. Likelihood of it being sunk is partly because there are so many means of commmunication on a submarine, to indicate its "alive" including:
-  several types of radios that work to satellites (eg. US Government satellites and Inmarsat) and/or to
   Argentinian or foreign naval base stations
-  even in the unlikelihood of all radios failing San Juan could indicate its position by "pinging" its 
   active sonar(s) to maximum volume. This is a useful means of indicating a submarine's precise 
   position to listening "passive" sensors (eg. on naval ships) that are even hundreds of miles away.
-  when surfaced the submarine could fire flares and turn on its navigation lights day and night
-  when surfaced the submarine could activate military versions of  Emergency Position 
   Indicating Radio Beacons (EPIRBs)
San Juan, if it can surface, can always contact passing surface ships, fishing boats or coastal 

ARA San Juan (S-42) is a TR-1700-class enlarged German TKMS designed derivative of the Type 209 conventional diesel-electric submarine.

Even though San Juan has had extensive upgrades its hull is old as it was completed in 1983. This means that the hull would be rusted/corroded and may suffer metal fatigue. It would have a more limited diving depth than when it was new.

Other than unintentionally diving too deep to crush depth a submarine can "sink" for many other reasons, including:
-  collision with the seafloor or a hard rock, with an iceberg or with a surface ship
-  crew mistakes in upsetting the buoyancy of a submarine can also be fatal
-  fire, explosion, flood or escape of poison gas can also occur due to malfunctioning of a sub's
   lead-acid batteries or torpedo propellant or warheads.

It is most likely that the Argentine Navy and Government knows San Juan was supposed to be "sailing" and what has likely happened to San Juan. But getting divers or a deep submergence submarine to San Juan on the seafloor may cause most of the delay before final judgements can be made. Also strong winds have been delaying search and rescue efforts. Then the Argentine Government will make the difficult decision to announce San Juan's fate.

All that pessimism aside I hope the crew of San Juan have survived.

Submarine ARA San Juan was travelling north from Ushuaia to the main submarine base at Mar Del Plata when it vanished (Map courtesy the Daily Mail (Australia Edition).

ARA San Juan in happier times. (Photo courtesy Argentinian Government).


November 17, 2017

Chinese, NK & Russian Designed Submarine Propulsion

After much frustrating work I've decided to steer away from tabulating propulsion information on Western designed submarines. This is due to the vast amount of conflicting information, from numerous, already existing, written sources.

Seeming conflicting information is partly due to:

-  There frequently being more than one diesel generator in a given sub – with the customer
    frequently deciding on the total number of diesels and their total power.

-  Put another way, different customer countries use different diesel generator, motor and AIP power

-  There are cruising speed/power "red lines" (surfaced, snorting and fully submerged) which, 
    if exceeded, could cause overheating over certain periods or excessive wear and shorter lives
    of engine parts.

-  Maximum diesel generator power output may be twice or more of the minimum.

-  Diesels may be run far lower than capacity – to reduce noise.

-  Essential use of diesel in snorkeling mode will likely reduce power output by 20%.

-  Diesel generators and the electric motors have different power output due to reduction gear or
   PSMS particulars.

-  Battery and/or AIP use has variable impacts on motor power output.

Much more interesting and useful is focus on the small amount of information on Chinese, North Korean and Russian designed submarine propulsion mixtures.


November 16, 2017

The Indo-Pacific Quadrilateral Rises Again

Australia's rising naval power (epitomised by the 2 LHDs and 3 AWDs) is being paralleled by its participation in the strategic Quadrilateral concept. The other 3 Quadrilateral members are the powerful maritime nations, US, Japan and India.

The Quadrilateral's prime purpose is to contain China's strategic expansion in the relatively newly labelled region "Indo-Pacific" (see map below). Within the "Indo" (Indian Ocean) Chinese surface ship and submarine visits have risen sharply in the last 5 years. China has also established a naval base at Djibouti, Africa, facing the Indian Ocean.

Within the Pacific China is of course building militarised South China Sea islands and bilaterally courting or pressuring, some Southeast Asian nations (Vietnam, Philippines, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia and Malaysia). China may argue that this activity is all part of its oil-gas trade route One Belt One Road Initiative but the raw uncompromising militaristic flavour of China's advance demands containment by other Indo-Pacific countries.

The US, Japanese, Indian and Australian members of the Quadrilateral will most notably interact in naval exercises, but also quiet diplomatic meetings continue between them. 

If Trump had not dumped the TPP negotiations the Quadrilateral countries might have also formed a powerful economic grouping within the TPP. Instead the Chinese led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) is proving successful while the TPP proposal collapses.

To make the Quadrilateral work Reality Twitter Trump needs to foster consistent US leadership.

As in 2007-2008 China may yet flex its economic muscles to break the Quadrilateral (the weakest link unfortunatly being Australia).

The Indo-Pacific Region, an expanse that well fits containment of China by Quadrilateral nations: Japan, India, Australia and the US.


November 15, 2017

Indian Admiral Lanba Visits French Barracuda SSN Project

An interesting report of November 12, 2017 from Sandeep Unnithan has inspired facts and thoughts:
-  Admiral Sunil Lanba Chief of Indian Naval Staff visited the Naval Group (was DCNS) submarine
   yard at Cherbourg, France, in early November 2017. Admiral Lanba was given a detailed
   presentation on France’s new SSNs, the Barracuda class. The first, the Suffren, is due to be
   launched soon.

-  Naval Group is also building six Kalvari class Scorpene SSKs for the Indian navy at Mazagon
   Docks, Mumbai under a 2005 contract. 

-  Naval Group is also competing for the much delayed six AIP SSK Project 75I. If Naval Group wins
   Project 75I Naval Group may just possibly agree to technology transfers from the Barracuda in
   several respects:
   :  influencing the hull shape of an improved, larger Scorpene for Project 75I
   :  the pump jet and K15 reactor used in France’s Triomphant class SSBN and soon to be launched
      Barracuda class SSN may influence India's SSBNs (to fire K-4 SLBMs in the 2020s) and
      influence India's 6 SSN Project (in the 2030s)

As well as visiting France’s Naval Group I would guess that Admiral Lanba has recently been leading Indian delegations to visit shipyards of the other remaining Project 75I competitors, which are:
-  Germany’s TKMS
-  Sweden’s Saab, and
-  Russia’s Rosoboronexport/Rubin Design Bureau

The Suffren, first of the French Barracuda nuclear propelled attack submarines (SSNs) sports a paint job indicating 1 of 4(?) torpedo hatches and the bow sonar (?) The launch ceremony will probably be in late 2017/early 2018. (Photo courtesy AFP and Naval Group).