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Military helicopter wreck excavated from record depth

The US Navy has recovered the wreckage of an MH-60S military helicopter. The crashed machine was resting on the seabed more than 6,000 metres below the surface. This is the record depth from which a wreck has ever been recovered. A Sikorsky MH-60S Knighthawk military helicopter crashed in the Philippine Sea in January 2020. The
Published: April 7, 2021 - 09:00
Updated: July 22, 2023 - 22:20
Military helicopter wreck excavated from record depth

The US Navy has recovered the wreckage of an MH-60S military helicopter. The crashed machine was resting on the seabed more than 6,000 metres below the surface. This is the record depth from which a wreck has ever been recovered.

A Sikorsky MH-60S Knighthawk military helicopter crashed in the Philippine Sea in January 2020. The machine fell into the water off the coast of Okinawa and sank to a depth of more than 6,000 metres before rested at the bottom. According to available information, the accident occurred while performing routine tasks. As the helicopter did not sink immediately, it is fortunate that all crew members managed to leave the interior and no one was killed.

CURV robot for working at great depths
Specialist robot CURV 21 photo US Navy

Subsequently, at the request of Pacific Fleet Command, the US Navy Supervisor of Salvage and Diving (SUPSALV) located and documented the wreck Sikorsky MH-60S Knighthawk in the spring of 2020. Although documentation was made using side scan sonar and material collected by a remotely operated robotic ROV, that was the end of the effort.

SUPSALV then returned to the site of the helicopter sinking in March this year. This time, CURV 21, a remotely operated vehicle capable of conducting extraction operations at enormous depths, was used. The CURV 21 was placed on board the contracted salvage vessel and set off for the crash site.

Rescue unit to retrieve wreckage of military helicopter
Unit used to recover helicopter wreckage photo US Navy

In a press release, the US Navy said the wreckage of the military helicopter was recovered on 18 March. Finally, the published message was also highlighted that never before had an operation been carried out to retrieve a wreck from such a significant depth.

The operation to lift the crashed Sikorsky MH-60S Knighthawk began on 17 March. The following day the SUPSALV team successfully extracted the crashed aircraft. After taking the wreckage on board, a rescue ship transported the helicopter to Fleet Activities Yokosuka in Japan. There the helicopter was handed over for investigation and further analysis of the accident.

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About author

Marcin Pawełczyk
Marcin’s journey with diving has been an adventure. Starting as a recreational diver, he soon found himself drawn to the fascinating stories and mysteries of Baltic wrecks. After gaining experience, Marcin decided to go beyond just leisurely exploration and took his training up a notch by completing the TMX course, allowing him to explore even deeper and uncover the secrets of inaccessible places. His next challenge has been cave diving, where he is honing his skills to become a certified diver. Not content to simply take in the breathtaking beauty of underwater life, Marcin has also embraced underwater photography since 2018, capturing stunning shots that bring these worlds alive for those who are unable to experience them first-hand. Marcin’s passion for the underwater has taken him far and is sure to continue doing so as he dives into new depths and captures breathtaking images.
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