Meanwhile, in Crimea’s Kalamata Bay, a joint effort between the Russian Geographic Society and Russian Ministry of Defence has retrieved a gently-used Bell P-39 Airacobra from the bottom of the Black Sea.
Discovered at a depth of just 19 feet, about a half-mile offshore, the specimen joined the Black Sea Fleet in late 1943 as Lend-Lease and was lost in July 1944, piloted by one Lieutenant Vladimir Shishkin, who was able to swim ashore from his ditched aircraft, which he splashed down after the engine conked out.
Dubbed the Kobrushka (little cobra) by the Soviets, the aircraft was loved on the Eastern Front for its ability to operate from rugged strips and ticked up a great kill ratio against German attack and observation aircraft such as the slow-moving Stuka and Fw 189 Uhu while running ground support tasks.
Almost half of the P-39s and improved P-69s produced– 4,719– were sent to the Soviets, mostly flown and handed over warm via the Alaska-Siberia ferry route.
The Russians kept the type in service into the early 1950s, at which point the spares had run out and Washington wasn’t sending any more.