U.S. deploys CURV-21 in Argentine submarine search

The U.S. Navy directed Supervisor of Salvage and Diving (SUPSALV) to deploy the Cable operated Unmanned Recovery Vehicle 21 (CURV-21) to join the search efforts for Argentine submarine, ARA San Juan.

The deployment was at the request of U.S. Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM).

The deliberate search effort, which began Nov. 15, when the submarine went missing, recently shifted focus to undersea assets capable of deep seafloor searches, calling for the specialized capabilities of the CURV-21, which is due to arrive in Argentina in a U.S. Air Force C-5 Galaxy airlifter on Dec. 01.

The U.S. government is working hand in hand with the international community and is providing rapid response capabilities to assist the government of Argentina in its search for the missing submarine.


CURV-21 is a 6,400-pound Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) that is designed to meet the U.S. Navy’s deep ocean salvage requirements down to a maximum depth of 20,000 feet of seawater. It was was built as a direct replacement for CURV-III but with a smaller overall system footprint.

The vehicle is equipped with continuous transmission frequency modulation (CTFM) sonar for target detection and a high-resolution digital still camera, black and white, and color television camera.

ORION and CURV-21 can be combined into a single integrated search & recovery system capable of being deployed on a USNS T-ATF. The system is based on a .680 fiber-optic umbilical cable and a shared handling system that can switch at sea between side-scan sonar and ROV operations. The system is self-contained and fly-away transportable for world wide response on vessels of opportunity.

The ROV can be controlled in all six degrees of motion with auto-control functions for depth, altitude, and heading. An integrated DVL allows 1 and 2 meter incremental movements as well as cruise control for extended axial movements. The vehicle is equipped with CTFM sonar for target location and pinger detection. The ROV uses two seven function rate manipulators. It has a high-resolution digital still camera, black and white, and color television cameras. The system includes a load bearing, pressure compensated, Electro-Optical Umbilical Swivel.

The fiber optic multi-plex system can combine up to eight channels of video, sonar, USBL, RS-232/422/485 data communications, and navigation data on a single fiber. 2 spare fibers are available subsea for additional sensors. A digital communications network with a data capacity of 400 MHz controls the vehicle and has significant capacity for future expansion. The system is designed to interface easily with additional sensors or tool packages using standard data formats.

For special operations, the ROV can accommodate customized tool packages. These packages can include, but are not limited to specialized salvage tools, instrument packages, or other mission-oriented equipment.

Lt. Lyndsi Gutierrez, U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet


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