Nov. 18 (UPI) -- A U.S. Navy aircraft is assisting Argentina's naval search for a submarine with a crew of 44 missing since Wednesday off the country's southern coast of the Atlantic Ocean.
On Saturday, U.S. Southern Command directed the Navy to deploy a P-8A Poseidon multi-mission maritime aircraft to Bahia Blanca, Argentina, to search for the ARA San Juan, a German-built, diesel-electric vessel. Argentia's government, which has been searching for the ship from the air and sea, requested the U.S. help.
Argentina lost radio contact with the sub on Wednesday.
"The submarine knows that if it does not have communication with land for this long, it has to surface," Argentina's Navy spokesman Enrique Balbi told CNN.
"We are committed to use all the national and international resources that are necessary to find the submarine ARA San Juan as soon as possible," Argentine President Mauricio Macri posted on Twitter Friday.
The sub's last known location was in the San Jorge Gulf, between where it departed from southern Argentina's Tierra del Fuego archipelago and its home base in Mar del Plata. The trip was supposed to be around 1,800 miles.
A P-8A Poseidon, which includes a 21-person crew, will depart from El Salvador's Comalapa Air Base.
The aircraft went into operation in November 2013 as the Navy's newest maritime, patrol and reconnaissance aircraft and it is "configured with state-of-the-art sensors and communications equipment, allowing it to support a wide range of missions over large bodies of water, including sub-surface search-and-rescue operations," according to a Navy release.
It can reach 564 mph, fly up to 41,000 feet, has a range of 1,200 nautical miles and can loiter for four hours over search areas, according to the Navy.
In April, it helped search for the Republic of Korea ship Stella Daisy, which sank in the Southern Atlantic Ocean, off the western coast of Africa.
NASA is also providing a P-3 Orion, a turboprop aircraft capable of long-duration flight, spokeswoman Katherine Brown told CNN. She said the U.S. plane was "already in Argentina on a scientific mission."