Date:17 July 2017
After 72 years, the P-39 Airacobra is back on the surface.
By Kyle Mizokami
Russian Navy divers recently recovered a World War II fighter from the bottom of an arctic lake. The fighter was one of thousands supplied to the Soviet Union during World War II by the United States and Great Britain. A video uploaded by the Russian Ministry of Defense documents efforts to recover the aircraft and restore it.
The fighter, a P-39 Airacobra, crashed into Lake Shukozero near the Russian city of Murmansk. The P-39 is thought to be the same one piloted by Soviet Air Force pilot Fyodor Varavik that crashed into Shukozero in March 1945. Varavik was on a training mission at the time when he lost control of his aircraft. The aircraft came to rest at a depth of 147 feet.
Watch the P-39 Airacobra retrieval
Upon discovering the fighter, Russian Navy personnel assigned to the Northern Fleet organized the recovery operation. The aircraft still had its onboard oxygen tanks and live 37-millimeter cannon ammunition. With the help of navy divers, the Airacobra was carefully lifted to the surface and is now in a museum.
Although navy personnel thought they would encounter human remains. But the only trace of the pilot was a piece of his boot. One theory is that the fighter landed on ice as the lake would have been frozen in March, and he was rescued, or had his remains recovered. When the ice thawed, the fighter sank to the bottom of the lake.
More than 13,000 fighter planes were shipped from American factories to the Soviet Union during World War II, including 4,746 P-39s Airacobras. In 2014, the Russian Navy recovered a M4A2 Sherman tank shipped to the USSR as part of Lease Lend. The tank was part of a shipment lost when the cargo ship SS Thomas Donaldson was torpedoed by a German U-Boat in 1945.
Image and video credit: Минобороны России | Russian Ministry of Defence
This article was originally written for and published by Popular Mechanics USA.