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US Navy Deploys Undersea Rescue Command to Help Search for Argentinean Sub

This undated photo provided by the Argentine navy shows ARA San Juan, a German-built diesel-electric vessel, near Buenos Aires, Argentina. Argentina's navy said Nov. 17, 2017, that it had detected seven failed “satellite calls,” likely from the sub's crew.

The U.S. Navy has ordered its Undersea Rescue Command to deploy to Argentina to assist with the efforts to locate an Argentine Navy submarine that disappeared four days ago with 44 crew members aboard.

A U.S. Navy Submarine Rescue Chamber and underwater intervention Remotely Operated Vehicle, were transported Sunday to Argentina. A U.S. space agency P-3 explorer aircraft and a U.S. P-8A Poseidon plane are already deployed for the search.

The Argentine navy said late Saturday it had detected seven failed "satellite calls," likely from the crew of a submarine that went missing earlier this week.

The Defense Ministry said the "satellite calls" were likely from the crew of the ARA San Juan, and officials saw it as a sign the crew of 44 was trying to reestablish contact.

Submarines underwater can deploy to the surface a location beacon that can then emit emergency signals via satellite, according to a Reuters report. The navy said a U.S. company that specializes in satellite communications was involved in trying to help locate the signals, according to Reuters.

Contact lost Wednesday

The navy lost contact with the German-built, diesel-electric submarine on Wednesday as it was returning from a routine mission from the naval base at Ushuaia, in Argentina’s extreme south, to its base at Mar del Platamand.

Despite turbulent weather that included strong winds and 6-meter waves, base commander Admiral Gabriel Gonzalez said naval forces were increasing efforts above and below the water’s surface and were preparing to comb the bottom of the ocean.

“The underwater search is obviously much more complicated than the search at the surface because it requires a combination of high-tech tools,” Gonzalez said at a news conference.

The navy, which launched an air and sea search Thursday, said an initial search at the vessel’s last known position, about 430 kilometers off the southeastern Valdez peninsula, turned up no clues.

US joins the search

Argentine officials said they accepted an offer from the United States to participate in the search. A NASA P-3 explorer aircraft that had been stationed in Ushuaia has joined Argentine military aircraft that have been flying over the area.

Late Friday, the U.S. Southern Command announced a P-8A Poseidon plane departed an air base in El Salvador to join the search.

Argentine navy commander Carlos Zavalla encouraged family, friends and colleagues of the crew members to remain positive.

“So far, the only concrete thing is the lack of communication,” he said on local TV.

Pope Francis, a native of Argentina, was among many from around the world to offer support. The pope’s office said on Saturday he was praying fervently for the crew to safely return to their families soon.

The navy has said it believed an electrical outage may have caused communication problems on the vessel. Navy protocol directs submarines to rise to the surface when communication is lost.