Tribute To Submarines On Eternal Patrol – Fifty Plus Going On Fifteen

I write this blog as a tribute to all submarines on eternal patrol and for the ARA San Juan which has been missing and presumed lost in the south Atlantic since the middle of November 2017.

Submarines are a mystery to many but home for a small population of sailors worldwide. I was lucky enough to be an active submariner in the 1980s and 1990s and will always value this experience.

The probable loss of the ARA San Juan has emotionally impacted me over the past couple weeks because the sailors on this vessel were brothers and sisters of mine since we are a small community.

My heart goes out to the families of the ARA San Juan crew members since it is doubtful they will ever have closure since the reasons why the vessel disappeared will probably never be fully understood.

Although the United States has deployed hundreds of submarines since the end of World War II, we have lost four (4) submarines that are identified below.

  • USS Cochino – SS-345 – Lost 1949 in the Norwegian Sea.
  • USS Stickleback – SS-415 – Lost 1958 in the Pacific Ocean.
  • USS Thresher – SSN-593 – Lost 1963 in the Atlantic Ocean.
  • USS Scorpion – SSN-589 – Lost 1968 in the Atlantic Ocean.

It is believed that the US Navy Subsafe program which was implemented after the loss of the USS Thresher is responsible for the improved safety record since the 1960s.

What is known about the ARA San Juan last messages on November 15th.

  • 12:30 a.m. – The San Juan Captain contacted the local land-based commander via satellite phone informing them of flooding through the snorkel mast. The flooding short-circuited the bow battery system causing a fire that was extinguished. The Captain identified that the short was bypassed and the San Juan would continue to travel towards the base.
  • 6:00 a.m. – The San Juan transmitted the same message from 12:30 am as transmitted radio traffic.
  • 7:30 a.m. – The San Juan Captain contacted the local land-based commander indicating the San Juan was transiting, submerged, as planned, without additional issues.
  • 10:30 a.m. – An explosion and/or implosion was detected near the ships last location. The explosion/implosion was not identified as occurring through recorded acoustic data.

There was hope that the 44 crew members of the ARA San Juan would have enough air to last seven (7) to twelve (12) days if the submarine was submerged but disabled. Unluckily, we have exceeded this timeline so the current mission is probably a recovery mission.

A multi-national team continues to search a 40,000 square mile area for the ARA San Juan although results are doubtful.

Indications are that the casualty was a combination of flooding and fire.

  • Experiencing one (1) of these casualties is a major challenge that submarine crews constantly drill for.
  • Experiencing two (2) of these casualties and additional catastrophic failures related to the battery compartment would likely cause loss of the submarine.

We may never know what occurred with the ARA San Juan but our thoughts and prayers will be with the crew and families forever.

Wishing you health, safety, and success. I am Fifty Plus Going On Fifteen (50 Plus Going On 15) and I hope for a miracle.

Jay Patterson

 

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