US Navy plane scours South Atlantic in search for Argentine sub

Collver alerted the crew that a satellite image had picked up "something" near the area where the submarine last reported its position, according to a Reuters witness aboard the flight on Wednesday.

The ARA San Juan's last known position was in the San Jorge Gulf area, 240 nautical miles (432 kilometers) southeast of the Valdes peninsula, in the South Atlantic.

After eight days of uncertainty amid search and rescue efforts by more than a dozen countries, the relatives received word from the Argentine navy that an explosion had occurred aboard the ARA San Juan on November 15 in the area near the submarine's last known position.

Balbi declined to say anything Saturday to confirm assumptions that the submarine crew had perished.

Thursday, Balbi announced that the navy recently had learned that "an anomalous, singular, short, violent and non-nuclear event, consistent with an explosion, was registered" near the sub's last known location on November 15.

The Vienna-based Comprehensive nuclear Test-Ban Treaty Organisation (CTBTO) runs monitoring stations equipped with devices including hydrophones - underwater microphones that scan the oceans for sound waves.

Itati Leguizamon, whose husband is among the missing, told reporters, "They did not tell us they were dead, but that is the logical conclusion".

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The search for the submarine and its 44 crew has entered a "critical phase", Argentine navy spokesman Enrique Balbi said, as teams continue to scour 185,000 square miles of ocean - roughly the size of Spain.

The ARA San Juan, which was built in Germany in 1983 and refurbished a few years ago, departed the southern Argentine port of Ushuaia on November 13 and was travelling to its base in Mar del Plata, around 430 kilometres (265 miles) south of Buenos Aires. A Russian plane arrived in Argentina on Friday carrying search equipment capable of reaching 6,000 meters (20,000 feet) below the sea surface, Balbi said.

"We don't have any saint left to pray to; we have no one left to ask. That is what hurts the most because I will not be able to bring him a flower, I will not be able to have him at home".

"I feel a lot of pain because of the decisions that were taken", said Elena Alfaro, sister of a crew member.

The Argentine military submarine ARA San Juan and crew are seen leaving the port of Buenos Aires, Argentina June 2, 2014.

It appeared to be the first time since the Falklands conflict in 1982 that an RAF plane had landed in Argentina, although the UK Ministry of Defense would only characterize it as the first time in a "very long time". Argentine navy ships and aircraft from the United States and Brazil were then sent to check out the sound.

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