What happens to a German submarine in distress

In what is obviously a response to the massive international search and recuse effort for the missing Argentine Navy submarine ARA San Juan, the German Navy published an article on its site, outlining the various systems and procedures put in place to protect submariners should a German Navy submarine ever get in danger.

As described by the navy, the most important feature of German Type 212A submarines is that they are configured in such a way that they would return to the surface under almost all circumstances.

This would effectively transform a submarine rescue to a surface rescue.

Should, “contrary to all expectations” – as the German Navy says, a submarine fail to surface, submariners are still able to evacuate from the distressed boat using submarine escape suits, provided the submarine lies at a depth of up to 200 meters. Once on the surface, the submariners enter a life raft equipped with an emergency position-indicating radiobeacon (EPIRB) and wait for help.

Additionally, Germany is a member of the International Submarine Escape and Rescue Liaison Office (ISMERLO), as is Argentina. The office is dedicated to the global humanitarian effort for the coordination of search and rescue for military disabled submarines.


Argentine Navy’s ARA San Juan

The German Navy article was published as the search for the Argentine Navy’s TR-1700-class diesel-electric submarine ARA San Juan entered the sixth day on November 21. According to an Argentine Navy spokesman, the ARA San Juan last communicated its position in the morning hours of November 15 while en route from the Ushuaia naval base to the Mar del Plata naval base.

Germany is actively supporting search efforts with a P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft which operates alongside numerous aircraft and vessels from other countries. Among the first to join the search and rescue efforts were the US Navy, which deployed its Undersea Rescue Command and P-8A Poseidon multi-mission maritime aircraft, and the Royal Navy whose ice patrol ship HMS Protector was among the first to arrive on scene.

Waves of up to 10 meters hampered search efforts in the previous five days and authorities hope calmer seas will improve sonar conditions.

The image below shows all assets involved in search efforts

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