Submerged F-4: The Phantom of Subic Bay

subic-bay-f-4-phantom-sunk (All images (unless otherwise stated) by Anders Poulsen, reproduced with permission)

This gutted, F-4 Phantom fighter jet hulk at the bottom of Subic Bay in the Philippines presents an interesting question for aviation historians – how did it get there? While man-made machines deteriorate quickly beneath the waves, this particular aircraft clearly didn’t crash, but was stripped for parts before sinking.


During World War Two and Vietnam, it wasn’t uncommon for Navy aircraft that had been damaged beyond repair to have all useful spares removed before being pushed overboard to free-up deck space.


Aviation blog Storm Climb suggests this Phantom could have been a victim of the tragic fire aboard USS Forrestal 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?”


We may never know, but the unfortunate F-4 now makes for a great dive site off the west coast of Luzon. Below, crews fight the fire aboard USS Forrestal. The charred remains of several heavily armed combat aircraft (that at the time of the fire were being prepared for combat missions over North Vietnam) are evident. Emerging from the left side of the picture is the nose of Phantom F-4B number 200. (Find more Phantom jets at our F-4 tag.)

uss-forrestal-fire-aircraft-wrecks (Image: US Navy, public domain)

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  • Edwin Page

    Based on the antenna at the top of the sides of the intakes, this is either an F-4S, or a late in life F-4J. The F-4N had similar antenna, but were much longer. That would date this Phantom after 1977, well after the Vietnam war.


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