Photo and News Courtesy: Sandeep Unnithan

Salvex 2005, the 12-day bilateral exercise undertaken by the Indian and U.S. navies, concluded at Kochi on Sept 24th. Naval divers from the Indian and US Navy salvaged the wreckage of a Sea Hawk fighter belonging to the the Indian Navy which had crashed into the sea off Kochi in the 1969.

-The Seahawk fuselage and wings being pulled out of the Sea.
The Jubilant Indo-US Naval Salvage team with thier prize catch.-

The Official Press release states :

The sea phase extended over four days, operating about 24 Nautical Miles off the Kochi coast. Several joint dives were undertaken with the aim of recovering an aircraft wreck lying at a depth of about 50 Metres. After diving for four days on site, the wreck was successfully salvaged. The wreck is of a Sea Hawk aircraft. However in the absence of any visible markings, its vintage has yet to be established. This wreck was noticed during a joint Indo-French minesweeping exercise ‘Varuna’, earlier this year. The same has been brought to harbour on board USS Safeguard.

Sandeep Unnithan, one of our site's major contributor, has also sent us the following snippet of information. Sandeep credits it to Vice Admiral Vinod Pasricha in solving the identity of the fighter :

"The Sea Hawk has been identified as one which went down into the sea off Kochi on 20th August 1969. According to Vice Admiral Vinod Pasricha it was Cdr Kanjilal who was approaching the Vikrant for landing when he had a flameout and ejected. he will give me the exact dates in a while. Cdr Kanjilal unfortunately passed away a few years ago or it would have been great if we could get him to speak. The Aircraft in question is IN-189"

Now thats a very fast solving of the Mystery!

Related News Reports:

http://www.hindu.com/2005/09/24/stories/2005092408380300.htm
Skills of Indian, U.S. Navy divers put to test Salvex-2005 concludes; wreck of aircraft salvaged

KOCHI: Salvex 2005, the 12-day bilateral exercise undertaken by the Indian and U.S. navies, concluded here on Friday with naval divers salvaging the wreck of an Indian Navy fighter which had crashed into the sea off Kochi in the 1960s or 70s.

Addressing a joint press conference at the Southern Naval Command (SNC), Cdr. George Alexander, activity coordinator who represented the Indian Navy, said that the wreckage was possibly of a Sea Hawk fighter. "The type of aircraft could not be identified since we could not recover the aircraft's cockpit and tail. The markings on the wreckage were not visible either. It was salvaged from a depth of 50 metres, 25 nautical miles off Kochi, by a team of divers from both the navies and brought ashore in USS Safeguard, the U.S. salvage ship which participated in the exercise," he says.

"The wreckage was discovered in March, during the Indo-French joint naval exercise. Four officers and 16 sailors represented the Indian Navy, while seven officers and 100 sailors represented the U.S. Though our Navy does not have a salvage ship, we have a diving tender based in Kochi. Thus, we have the capability and have salvaged aircraft, vessels etc.," Cdr. Alexander said, adding that the exercise helped the Indian Navy divers and personnel in getting acquainted with the U.S. salvage ship, their procedures, terminology and equipment.

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...During their exercise the team recovered the wreckage of a "Sea Hawk" aircraft during their diving moves, which was first sighted in March this year during the India-French naval exercises.

Alexander said though they did not have any exact information on the aircraft but it was listed on the Navy inventory.

"We believe it is a Sea Hawk fighter aircraft, which has been in inventory of the Indian Navy earlier. But that is only an estimate as there is no marking on the aircraft so we can not confirm," he told reporters after the conclusion of the exercise.

Alexander added that the aircraft could have gone down sometime in 1960s.

Commander Tony San Jose, activity coordinator from US Navy, expressing satisfaction over the successful conclusion of their exercise, said several joint dives were undertaken to recover the fighter plane at a depth of 50 metres.

"This is a great opportunity for us in both import and sea phases. We have got good lot of training, we have got mutual understanding of our two Navies and combined diving and our team work which we saw at the final week here in bringing up that aircraft from that depth was a lot of team work," he said.

The wreckage was without its nose and tail part during the salvage done by the Indo-US Navy.

Additional information