Surviving Swordfish are rare, and the remains of the British biplane were found as part of a three-year survey project that involves the University of Malta collaborating with US educational bodies Harvey Mudd College and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

Initially using an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV), low-frequency sonar-scans on 19 June suggested the presence of the wings and tail section of an aircraft and the shadow of a propeller. This was confirmed three days later by high-frequency scans and video footage.

On 29 June archaeologist Dr Timmy Gambin from the University of Malta dived the site and was able to confirm that the object was a bomber documented as having crashed in the area during WW2.

Its intact condition suggested that the landing had been controlled, as reported at the time.

The Fleet Air Arm aircraft was understood to have taken off from RAF Hal Far in 1943, and ditched at sea after developing engine trouble.

Its pilot and co-pilot were rescued by two British soldiers on leave who happened to be out sailing in the area.

Dr Gambin told Malta TV that the site could become a diving attraction.

“Our long-term plan is to include sites such as this in itineraries for divers who go diving around Malta and who are interested in historical wrecks,” he said.

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