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Wreckage of missing jet found after 60 years

The wreckage of a military fighter plane, which disappeared 60 years ago with its pilot, has been found in the coastal waters in the south of France, near the Hyères islands, at the height of Toulon. The discovery was announced in an official statement by the French Research Institute for the Exploitation of the Sea
Published: November 27, 2020 - 09:00
Updated: July 22, 2023 - 21:37
Wreckage of missing jet found after 60 years

The wreckage of a military fighter plane, which disappeared 60 years ago with its pilot, has been found in the coastal waters in the south of France, near the Hyères islands, at the height of Toulon. The discovery was announced in an official statement by the French Research Institute for the Exploitation of the Sea – Ifremer.

Found in the Mediterranean, the wreckage is the remains of a jet fighter SE.203 Aquilon with the side number 83. The aircraft, belonging to the 11F Flotilla of the French naval air force, disappeared with its 27-year-old pilot in June 1960, while practising landing procedures on the British aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal, which was then off the French coast.

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The wreck was found by chance by the crew of the research vessel “Pourquoi Pas?”, which was conducting a seabed exploration in the area. The lost machine is located at a depth of just over 2450 metres and was identified and preliminarily surveyed using the Victor 6000 remote-controlled robot.

Missing jet wreck SE.203 Aquilon The jet looks well preserved and could be easily identified thanks to the almost intact markings on the tail. Due to the depth at which it rests, the aircraft is unlikely to be excavated.

The Aquilon was the first operational jet aircraft of the French Navy. The fighter-bomber aircraft was actually a French version of the De Havilland DH112 Sea Venom produced under licence. Construction began in 1952 and 96 units were eventually built in four different versions.

The Sud-Est Aquillon replaced two foreign turboprop fighters, the Supermarine Seafire and the Grumman F6F Hellcat. However, its career in French naval aviation was fairly short, lasting from 1955 to 1966. When it entered service, no French ship was able to operate it and so it was restricted to land bases, especially in Algeria.

Aquilon had to wait until 1960 to land on the aircraft carrier Clemenceau. Less than six years later it had already been replaced by the Dassault Etendard IV. Despite its short career, the Aquillon remains pivotal in the history of French naval aviation because it enabled pilots to make the transition to jet aircraft.

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About author

Tomasz Andrukajtis
Editor-in-chief of the DIVERS24 portal and magazine. Responsible for obtaining, translating and developing content. He also supervises all publications. Achived his first diving certification – P1 CMAS, in 2000. Has a degree in journalism and social communication. In the diving industry since 2008.
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