TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE (CBS13) – The search continues for a missing submarine thought to have sunk hundreds of miles off the coast of Argentina, and with 44 crew members on board, it’s a race against time.
Travis Air Force Base has now joined the international mission.
Since the beginning of September crews at the base have been inundated with humanitarian missions from the Mexico earthquake to hurricane relief, to now a missing submarine.
“It’s urgent. It’s much like when an aircraft goes down; you only have a certain window to find wreckage and survivors so every second, every minute counts,” said airfreight superintendent Kenneth Pryga.
As Naval forces from the U.S. and several other countries scour the south Atlantic searching for the ARA San Juan, last spotted Wednesday, crews with Travis Air Force base loaded up.
“Hundreds of tons we were loading worth of equipment on 9 different aircrafts,” said Pryga.
The airbase was asked to deploy aircraft to help deliver The U.S. Navy’s undersea rescue equipment – including oxygen tanks and a small submarine, using two of the air force’s largest jets, the C-5 super galaxy.
“The space in here could fit four Greyhound buses, 26 million ping-pong balls, 100 Volkswagen beetles,” said Staff Seargent Christopher Orzech.
The C5 and C17 aircrafts along with crews touched down in Argentina Sunday, with a time sensitive delivery
“The equipment we sent out was critical because there are only 1-2 deep-dive capable submarines out there, and we have one on this side. These submarines go down deep into the water and look for survivors and see where the wreckage may or may or not be,” said Pryga.
Monday morning the sonar systems of two ships detected noises sounding like tools being banged against the submarine. But by Monday night, the U.S. Navy confirmed those noises were not from the missing vessel.
But hope is not lost.
“We’re hoping for the safe return of every sailor that may have been on that submarine,” said Pryga.