Russia’s defence ministry has sent the oceanographic research and intelligence ship Yantar to the South Atlantic to help with the search for an Argentine submarine which went missing more than a week ago, TASS news agency reported on Thursday. Yantar had been heading to Angola on a voyage around Africa.
Yantar (Amber) is equipped with two self-propelled deep submergence vehicles allowing it to examine underwater areas up to 6,000 metres (3.75 miles) deep, TASS quoted the Russian military as saying.
Dozens of planes and boats are searching for the San Juan submarine. The search entered a “critical phase” on Wednesday as the 44 crew on board could be running low on oxygen, an Argentine navy spokesman said.
If the German-built submarine, in service for more than three decades, had sunk or was otherwise unable to rise to the surface since it gave its last location on Nov. 15, it would be using up the last of its seven-day oxygen supply.
Yantar earlier arrived in Cape Town on 12 November after calling in Port Louis, Mauritius, and departed on 18 November. The vessel’s next port of call wa Luanda, Angola, and had been expected to arrive there on 27 November, according to ship tracking websites, but will now change course for Argentina.
The Project 22010 ship previously sailed through the Red Sea, around the Horn of Africa, in mid-October and to the Seychelles before reaching Mauritius and then Cape Town.
Yantar is described as an oceanographic research vessel, but is believed to be an espionage ship. It was designed by the Almaz Central Marine Design Bureau in St. Petersburg and built at the Yantar Shipyard in Kaliningrad. Delivered in May 2015, it is operated by the Russian Navy’s Main Directorate of Underwater Research, which is believed to be involved in Russian espionage activities.
According to the website Covert Shores, Yantar is equipped with two self-propelled deep-sea vehicles called Rus (AS-37) and Consul (AS-39), which can accommodate two to three crew and feature titanium pressure hulls – Consul has been tested to more than 6 000 metres below sea level. These are launched over the side of the ship from a large hangar. Remotely operated vehicles are launched from the stern of the vessel.
Yantar has a displacement of 5 200 tons, a maximum speed of 15 knots, a range of 8 000 nautical miles, and can accommodate a crew of 60 members. The vessel is 108 metres long, 17 metres wide and has a draft of 5.9 metres.
Russia is building two more Project 22010 intelligence ships, with the second, Almaz, to be completed in 2019. Construction of the third will begin in 2020.