Wreckage of World War II aircraft carrier USS Lexington discovered off coast of Australia

It was located 3,000 metres below the surface of the Coral Sea, 76 years after it sank

Wreckage of World War II aircraft carrier USS Lexington discovered off coast of Australia

In this 1942 file photo, crew abandons the USS Lexington after the decks of the aircraft carrier sunk in the Battle of the Coral Sea during World War II. Picture by: AP/Press Association Images

A search team has discovered the wreckage of a sunk World War II US aircraft carrier, hundreds of kilometres off the coast of Australia.

The wreckage of the USS Lexington - also known as the 'Lady Lex' - was located three kilometres below the surface of the Coral Sea, more than 75 years after it was lost.

It came as part of a search effort led by billionaire and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, with the discovery made by the expedition crew of Research Vessel Petrel.

The vessel was found 800 kilometres off the eastern coast of Australia.

Robert Kraft, director of subsea operations, explained: "Lexington was on our priority list because she was one of the capital ships that was lost during WWII

"Based on geography, time of year and other factors, I work with Paul Allen to determine what missions to pursue. We’ve been planning to locate the Lexington for about six months and it came together nicely."

The USS Lexington was damaged during the Battle of the Coral Sea in May 1942 - a major battle between US and Japanese naval forces, and the first battle in history that saw aircraft carriers face off against each other.

The 'Lady Lex' was initially hit by multiple bombs and torpedoes, and was critically damaged by an explosion caused by secondary explosions.

Surviving crew abandoned the ship, and US destroyer Phelps deliberately sunk the heavily damaged Lexington.

216 members of the USS Lexington were lost during the battle, while 35 aircraft were on board when the carrier sank.

11 of the planes have been found by the expedition crew so far.