Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson will send crews to the Port of Anchorage early Tuesday morning to recover a fuel pod from an F-4 Phantom II fighter jet recently discovered in the area.
JBER spokesperson John Pennell says port personnel found the cracked fuel pod, buried in mud and silt, about 75 feet from a rocky bank at the facility. The 20-foot-long tank doesn’t contain fuel and has an estimated weight of 250 pounds, but could weigh 10 times that if it’s filled with additional mud and silt.
Crews at the port will begin recovery efforts by laying down plywood work platforms at about 1:30 a.m. Tuesday, shortly before low tide at 3:59 a.m. JBER’s recovery plan calls for digging out the tank, wrapping it in netting, dragging it to shore and lifting it by crane onto a flatbed trailer.
Pennell said he was unsure of how the fuel tank came to be near the port, which lies west of a major approach route to JBER runways. A historian for the 673d Air Base Wing is researching the matter, and crews hope to discover identification markings on the tank if it was jettisoned from an aircraft in flight.
Introduced in 1960, F-4s saw extensive service with the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marines in Vietnam and throughout the Cold War. While manned squadrons retired the F-4 shortly after 1991’s Operation Desert Storm, the Air Force continues to fly the twin-engine supersonic fighters as target drones.
F-4Es flew from JBER with the 43d Tactical Fighter Squadron, part of the 21st Composite Wing, from 1970 to 1980 until they were replaced with F-15A Eagles. In addition, the 3rd Wing’s 90th and 525th Fighter Squadrons both operated Phantom IIs prior to being assigned to JBER. The 525th flew the aircraft from 1969 to 1977, while the 90th operated F-4s from 1973 to 1991.
Contact Chris Klint