Six missing after U.S. military aircraft crash off Japan

Two US Marine Corps aircraft -- an F-18 fighter and a C-130 tanker -- crashed during a refueling operation off the coast of Japan (AFP Photo/EPA) (AFP/File)

WASHINGTON/TOKYO (Reuters) - Six U.S. military personnel were missing following a still-unexplained mishap off the coast of Japan on Thursday involving two U.S. Marine Corps aircraft, which may have crashed in mid-air, U.S. officials said.

Japan's defense ministry said that its maritime forces had rescued one person. Search and rescue efforts are ongoing.

The Marine Corps said in a short statement that the incident occurred at 2 a.m. local time in Japan on Thursday (1700 GMT Wednesday). The aircraft had launched from Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni and were conducting regular training when there was a "mishap," the Marine Corps said.

A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said one of the aircraft was an F/A 18 fighter jet, while the other was a KC-130 refueling aircraft, with a combined total of seven personnel aboard. A second official confirmed that only one person had been rescued so far.

Officials who spoke on condition of anonymity were unsure how the mishap may have occurred and whether it happened during refueling but none suspected foul play. An investigation has begun.

The Marine Corps said Japanese search and rescue aircraft immediately responded to aid in recovery efforts. It was unclear if U.S. military officials were also assisting with the search.

(Reporting by Phil Stewart and Idrees Ali in Washington and Kaori Kaneko and Tim Kelly in Tokyo; Editing by Peter Cooney and Rosalba O'Brien)