The tail of the crashed AirAsia jet was lifted from the Java Sea on Saturday but it did not contain the "black box" flight recorders that are crucial to helping investigators determine why the jet went down two weeks ago.
"The tail has been secured," Indonesian armed forces chief Gen. Moeldoko told reporters.
The 30-foot-long chunk, still mostly intact and emblazoned with AirAsia's red-and-white logo, is the largest piece of the Airbus A320's fuselage to be retrieved by search crews battling stormy waters off Borneo island.
The rear of the aircraft is where the black boxes are stored, making the tail one of the most crucial clues to emerge from the search.
Crews used inflatable balloons to hoist the tail 100 feet from the sea floor. A crane then lowered it onto the deck of a ship.
Search operations director Air Commodore Suryadi Supriyadi said crews closely examined the wreckage.
Although search teams have detected large objects on the sea floor that they believe could be the plane's fuselage, crews have not been able to reach them due to difficult weather conditions and poor visibility underwater. Officials believe that most of the 162 passengers and crew members aboard Indonesia AirAsia Flight 8501, which crashed in a thunderstorm during a two-hour flight on Dec. 28, are entombed in the main cabin of the aircraft, lying somewhere on the sea floor.
Ships equipped with sonar equipment heard a "fairly strong" signal coming from an object about half a mile from where the tail was found, but officials said they did not know if the pinging sound was coming from the black boxes or another object.
Special correspondent Pathoni reported from Jakarta and staff writer Bengali from Mumbai, India.