Deep-Water Salvage Team to Recover Navy Plane in Philippine Sea

A C-2A Greyhound assigned to the "Rawhides" of Fleet Logistics Squadron (VRC) 40 lands on the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) on July 19, 2017. Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Darien Weigel/Navy
A C-2A Greyhound assigned to the "Rawhides" of Fleet Logistics Squadron (VRC) 40 lands on the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) on July 19, 2017. Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Darien Weigel/Navy

The Navy is deploying a team of deep-water salvage experts to recover a C-2A Greyhound transport aircraft that went down in the Philippine Sea on Nov. 22 en route to the carrier Ronald Reagan.

Three troops, including the pilot, were killed when the Greyhound crashed. Lt. Steven Combs, the pilot, has been credited with saving the lives of the other eight service members aboard by maneuvering to ditch the aircraft in choppy seas.

It has taken more than two weeks to begin recovery efforts in significant part because of the depth of the sea at the crash location, according to a release from U.S. 7th Fleet. The water is deeper than 16,000 feet, or more than three miles straight down, a depth beyond the capabilities of regional salvage assets.

The Philippine Sea is home to some of the deepest waters in the entire world, including the Mariana Trench, nearly seven miles deep, and the Philippine Trench, some six-and-a-half miles deep.

The Navy will dispatch a special deep-water salvage team based in Washington, D.C., in coming days to begin recovery efforts for the aircraft.

The service's Supervisor of Salvage and Diving "will embark a U.S. Navy-contracted salvage vessel in Japan and proceed to the crash site at sea," according to the 7th Fleet release. "Once on station, highly skilled operators will search for the aircraft's emergency relocation pinger with a U.S. Navy-owned towed pinger locator (TPL-25) system."

Once the Greyhound is located, the Navy will send in more deep-water salvage equipment to assess the aircraft and begin recovery. It will also work to bring back the bodies of the sailors lost in the crash.

In addition to Combs, Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Equipment) Airman Matthew Chialastri and Aviation Ordnanceman Airman Apprentice Bryan Grosso were lost when the aircraft went down. The cause of the crash is still being investigated.

The salvage efforts follow an extensive search-and-rescue campaign to find the lost troops. The Japan Maritime Self Defense Force helped assets from the Reagan to comb almost 1,000 square miles of water before the search was ultimately called off, officials said.

"Every effort will be made to recover the fallen sailors," officials said.

-- Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at hope.seck@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.

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