On September 25, the members of the joint expedition of the Russian Geographical Society and the Expeditionary Center of the Russian Ministry of Defense lifted from the bottom of the Black Sea the P-39 "Airacobra" fighter of the Air Force of the Workers 'and Peasants' Red Army, manufactured in the USA in the 1940s.
From 14 to 25 September 2020, a joint expedition of the Russian Geographical Society and the Expeditionary Center of the Russian Ministry of Defense took place in the waters of the Kalamita Bay, near the village of Novofedorovka of the Republic of Crimea. Its goal was to search for and retrieve the “Airacobra” fighter from the bottom of the Black Sea. The expedition was attended by volunteers of the Russian Geographical Society, military sailors of the Black Sea Fleet and specialists of the underwater works enterprise "Peter".
The specialists carried out search and reconnaissance activities and clarified the coordinates of the aircraft. They carried out underwater diving operations to wash the aircraft from alluvial sand and soil, strap the aircraft and prepare it for separation from the ground using inflatable pontoons.
The lifting from an eight-meter depth was carried out using a special diving platform delivered to the Black Sea region from Voronezh. At the final stage, the “Airacobra” was loaded on board a vessel of the Black Sea Fleet.
“The plane lay in the water for 75 years, this affected its condition. In addition, apparently, someone else tried to lift it and damaged it. Therefore, the state of the “Airacobra” is not very good. But as an object of military-technical history, it has great museum value, " noted the Head of the expedition, specialist of the Expeditionary Center of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, Anatoly Kalemberg.
We would like to remind you that at first the underwater object was discovered by Crimean amateur scuba divers in 2017. The study of the aircraft was carried out in 2019 by the expedition of the Russian Ministry of Defense to search for sunken objects of the Great Patriotic War with the aim of identifying them and burying the crew.
"We expected that it would all be covered with sand. But its cabin, part of the engine compartment and a propeller were on the surface. We managed to find and raise to the surface the pilot's oxygen mask with the inscription 'Made in USA’," said the lead researcher of the 2019 expedition, Alexander Yolkin.
The object was identified by the engine located behind the cockpit and the double-glazed cockpit. During World War II, only one fighter with such a configuration was massively used - the American Bell R-39 “Airacobra” aircraft. This aircraft had been supplied to the USSR until December 1944. In total, about five thousand “Airacobras” were delivered to the USSR under Lend-Lease.
Experts have established that this particular aircraft, as part of the Black Sea Fleet Air Force, participated in the air defense of the Crimean Peninsula during the Yalta Conference in February 1945.
In the Russian State Archive of the Navy, the emergency act of 1945 is preserved, which states that the same aircraft, on July 27, 1945, made an emergency landing on the water due to technical malfunctions of the engine, after which it sank.