US warplanes crash off Japan coast, rescue underway

F  A-18 fighter jet with two crew onboard and a KC-130 refuelling tanker with five crew crashed into the sea

It was unclear if U.S. military officials were also assisting with the search.

But officials said the two pilots, whose names were not released, will be allowed to keep their wings, according to the Marine Corps Times.

Officials who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity were unsure precisely how the mishap occurred but none suspected foul play.

U.S. Marines and Japanese authorities were searching early Thursday off the coast of Japan for missing Marines after a mishap between a fighter jet and plane used both for transporting troops and refueling, Marine officials said.

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The Marine Corps did not elaborate on the nature of the incident.

The statement said that the aircraft involved in the incident had taken off from U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Yamaguchi Prefecture, "and were conducting regularly scheduled training" when it occurred.

The Marines refuel aircraft differently to the Air Force, said Carl Baker, executive director of the Pacific Forum think tank in Hawaii.

Japan's Defense Ministry said the two aircraft were carrying seven crew members in total collided and crashed into the sea about 100 kilometers south of the Muroto Cape on Shikoku island in southwestern Japan.

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No other details were provided.

The planes involved were an F-18 fighter and a C-130 tanker, the official said.

More than 50,000 United States troops are based in Japan under the bilateral security pact.

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