Submerged F-4: The Phantom of Subic Bay

F 4 phantom subic bay1  Submerged F-4: The Phantom of Subic Bay(Image: Anders Poulsen, reproduced with permission)

There are numerous reasons why ocean floors are littered with the remains of military aircraft, from war and conflict to mechanical malfunction and the occasional artificial reef. But it’s not often divers stumble across the submerged remains of one of the world’s greatest warplanes. Not so for photographer Anders Poulsen, seen here exploring the wreck of an F-4 Phantom on the bottom of Subic Bay in the Luzon Sea, Philippines.

submerged f 4 phantom subic bay  Submerged F-4: The Phantom of Subic Bay(Image: Anders Poulsen, reproduced with permission)

While the identity of this Phantom remains elusive, it most likely served with the U.S. Navy and is probably an F-4B, J or N model. The Phantom’s intact condition and numerous missing components suggest it didn’t crash or ditch. During the Vietnam War it wasn’t uncommon for badly damaged aircraft to be stripped for parts and, in some cases, even pushed overboard to free up space.

crashed f 4 phantom subic bay  Submerged F-4: The Phantom of Subic Bay(Image: Anders Poulsen, reproduced with permission)

Could that be the case with this F-4? A more tragic possibility is that the Phantom may have been a victim of the fire aboard the USS Forestal fire in 1967. With the fire extinguished, the Forrestal steamed toward Subic, where it moored at Naval Air Station Cubi Point. Was this Phantom stripped for parts during the cruise and pushed overboard at the mouth of Subic Bay?

f 4 phantom US navy  Submerged F-4: The Phantom of Subic Bay(Images: top, left, right: U.S. Navy, public domain)

We may never know, but its watery grave has saved it from being scrapped or shot down as a target drone – a common fate for retired Phantoms. For the time being, this aircraft, originally built by McDonnell Douglas in St Louis, will remain a popular destination for scuba divers exploring the wrecks of Subic Bay. The more active Phantoms above show what the jet once looked like.

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