Phoenix International Holdings, Inc., (Phoenix) announced the successful search and recovery of critical components of a B-52H bomber that crashed in 11,625 feet of seawater (fsw) 25 miles off the coast of Guam. The Barksdale Air Force Base (Louisiana) bomber was lost while preparing for Guam Liberation Day celebrations. The operation was conducted under the guidance of the Supervisor of Salvage and Diving (SUPSALV), Code 00C2 of the Naval Sea Systems Command. Phoenix is the Navy's prime contractor for worldwide, deep ocean search and recovery operations.
Phoenix was tasked with locating and recovering specific items from the bomber that could give crash investigators clues as to why the aircraft was lost. A prospective search area was defined by conducting an aircraft loss analysis that considered all available data on the crash and the expected operating environment. A 2 x 2 nautical mile (nm) region was determined to be an area of greatest interest. Upon arriving in the area, Phoenix first conducted a bathymetric survey to ascertain the character of the seafloor. This information would influence how the side scan sonar search would be conducted. SUPSALV's 20,000 fsw depth capable side scan sonar search system, ORION, was subsequently deployed to locate the wreckage. Interpretation of the sonar records revealed a 600 x 950 ft. debris field. The Navy's CURV 21 Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) was then lowered to systematically investigate the debris field for critical items. Once the critical pieces were located, each was recovered to the surface using various lift techniques. USNS SIOUX (T-ATF 172) supported all phases of the project.