For the first time in twenty years, Argentina once again has the technological and technical capability to repair submarines, announced President Cristina Fernandez during a ceremony at the refurbished Naval Industrial Complex, CINAR, to celebrate the conclusion of repairs on a submarine and the recovery of an oceanographic research vessel.
“Naval activity in the country had been neglected for a long time, but today we are celebrating the major repair of ARA San Juan submarine (launched 1985) and the complete recovery and modernization of the research vessel ‘Bernardo Houssay”, underlined the Argentine president.
“For the first time in twenty years, our neglected naval industry, once again has the technological and technical capability to repair and upgrade submarines”.
“ARA San Juan will be back at sea by December and it wasn’t that long ago that ARA Salta had to be sent to Brazil for repairs and maintenance because the Argentine naval industry had been dismantled”, added Mrs. Kirchner who anticipated that at the end of the year “we’re going to be making an announcement on the ARA Santa Fe which is being reassembled”.
Mrs Kirchner said that CINAR from a modest turnover in 2003 of 5 million dollars, when her late husband and president Nestor Kirchner decided to recover the naval industry, “currently has a list of 140 vessels undergoing different repairs and the turnover is above 100 million dollars”
“ARA San Juan was cut in half, underwent 429 repair and maintenance operations which will extend the submersible life to thirty years while generating 250.000 man/hours”, said CFK.
The ARA San Juan and ARA Santa Fe (most of it still in crates) belong to the Santa Cruz class (German built TR.1700 type). Six of these ships were ordered by the Argentine Navy but only the first two, built in Germany, were actually completed. The other four -to be built in Argentina- were never completed due to budgetary concerns.
The six were part of a major fleet renovation plan which included the Meko class frigates, a contract signed in 1977 with West Germany. Originally the Argentine navy sponsored the development of the CAREM nuclear reactor to be installed on some of these submarines but for political reasons the whole program was dismantled.
Nevertheless the two German built units (San Juan and Santa Crux) are the largest submarines built in Germany since World War II and are among the fastest diesel-electric submarines in the world.
“The Santa Fe is a submarine purchased over twenty years ago and is in crates but President Cristina said we must recover the hull, the whole ship and convert it into a real submarine that some day will effectively be sailing”, said Defense minister Arturo Puricelli, also present at the ceremony. “It’s a goal the President is personally committed to achieve and which most surely will be made reality”.
The previous ARA Santa Fe (former Guppy class USS Catfish) took part in the 1982 Falklands conflict and was surprised in South Georgia where she was captured. The British later scuttled her.
The other big celebration of the day was the re-launching of the scientific research vessel “Bernardo Houssay”, which was completely rebuilt from scratch after spending decades semi abandoned. An estimated ten million dollars have been invested in her.
Originally built in the late twenties in Denmark as a research vessel, with both sail and engine it was purchased by Argentina in the late fifties becoming the first oceanographic vessel in Latin America. It is considered the vessel of its kind which most scientific cruises in all the seas of the world, has accomplished.
This ‘state of the art’ refurbished scientific vessel with new labs and equipments will be involved in research and teaching “and preparing our people to make the best of our Argentine Sea (South Atlantic)”, said the president.
CINAR, which is the fusion of the old Tandanor and Almirante Storni yards in the port of Buenos Aires, among the many ships under repair and recovery figures the Argentine Navy’s icebreaker Almirante Irizar which caught fire in April 2007 and was an almost loss.