HMS Protector arrives in South Atlantic to join Argentine submarine search

The Royal Navy’s ice patrol ship, HMS Protector (A173) has arrived in the search area around which international efforts to find and rescue an Argentine submarine reported missing in the South Atlantic Ocean are centred.

The Navy ship immediately changed course from her planned tasking and sailed to join the multi-national efforts to find the missing submarine ARA San Juan (S-42), following a request for assistance from the Argentine government.

The missing submarine, with 44 crew members on board, was in the southern Argentine Sea, 432 kilometres from the Patagonian coast when it gave its last location four days ago. Among the missing crew is Argentina’s first female submarine officer, Eliana María Krawczyk.

The contact was lost when the submarine was en route from the Ushuaia naval base in the country’s far south to Mar del Plata base, around 400 kilometres southeast of the capital, Buenos Aires.

The UK is also deploying the Royal Navy’s specialist Submarine Parachute Assistance Group to assist with the search efforts, and the Falklands Islands patrol vessel HMS Clyde is returning from a patrol to South Georgia in order to assist with the search.

A British C-130 aircraft based in the Falkland Islands with the British Forces South Atlantic Islands remains stood by to assist with the aerial search efforts, and Ministry of Defence efforts are being co-ordinated through that headquarters.

The statement from the Royal Navy said that high winds and heavy seas in the South Atlantic are affecting the ability of assets to conduct operations but the country remains committed to efforts to find the missing submarine as soon as possible.

HMS Protector (A173)

HMS Protector is an ice patrol ship currently operated by the Royal Navy and built in Norway in 2001.

As MV Polarbjørn (Norwegian: polar bear) she operated under charter as a polar research icebreaker and a subsea support vessel.

From April 2011, she was chartered to the Royal Navy for three years as a temporary replacement for the ice patrol ship, HMS Endurance (A171), and was renamed HMS Protector. In September 2013, the vessel was purchased outright by the British Ministry of Defence.

Protector operates several small boats, including the survey motor boat James Caird IV, the ramped work boat Terra Nova and two Pacific 22 RIBs Nimrod and Aurora. She also embarks three BV206 all-terrain vehicles and a number of quad-bikes and trailers for activities on Antarctica, such as moving stores and equipment.

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