The US Navy has called off its search for the missing Argentine submarine, the ARA San Juan. Despite the international effort to hunt for the German-made submarine, which went missing off the coast of Argentina on 15 November, with a crew of 44 members, the submarine remains lost.
US will continue to provide technical support, even after its search operations have been shuttered. US Navy spokesperson Commander Erik Reynolds told the Washington Post that a small team would remain in Argentina until 2 January, after which planning and analytical specialists would continue to provide data analysis and technical support from the US.
The US Navy said that its contributions to the search and rescue efforts for the ARA San Juan included deploying over 200 search and rescue personnel, a special underwater rescue unit, three advanced aircrafts, four submersibles, a ship and over 400 sonar buoys. The US also provided the Argentine search vessels with an advanced sonar system, which was mounted on the search vessel.
"The U.S. support team completed all searches in areas assigned by the Argentine Navy, sweeping each area twice with advanced sensors. Despite their best efforts on behalf of the Argentine people and the families of the missing sailors, this international effort has yet to locate the ARA San Juan," the US Navy said in a statement.
The US Navy's withdrawal from the search efforts comes just a day after Argentina's navy announced that a sonar search had detected a new contact with the ship. Although the Argentine navy abandoned its rescue operations for any survivors 15 days after the submarine went missing, it said that it would continue its search efforts with Russia's support.
The Russian-operated Panther Plus submarine is expected to perform further analysis of the new sonar contact detected. However, the new contact is yet to be verified – there have been several false alarms in the past about sonar signals believed to have been detected from the submarine.
The tragedy led to protests from the family members of the crew members of the missing submarine. One grieving father of one of the youngest sailors aboard the ARA San Juan, reportedly alleged that the Argentine navy covered up the disastrous circumstances surrounding the tragic loss of the vessel. The outcry led to the dismissal of Admiral Marcelo Srur from the Argentina's navy earlier this month.
With the US' withdrawal from the search efforts, the likelihood of discovering the ARA San Juan remains uncertain.
"On behalf of the people of the United States, we offer our respects to the families of the crew of A.R.A. San Juan and the people of Argentina," said Rear Adm. Daniel B. Abel, director of operations, US Southern Command.