Two Air Self-Defense Force F-1 support fighters disappeared off the coast of Iwate Prefecture on Tuesday during night-flying practice over the Pacific Ocean, a Defense Agency spokesman said.

The two F-1 fighters lost radio contact and vanished from radar screens at about 6:59 p.m., about half an hour after taking off from Misawa Air Base for night-flying practice.

Although full details of the incident were not yet clear, the spokesman said the pilot of another F-1 that was in a three-plane formation with the missing fighters told the agency he saw a red fire ball during flight.

The aircraft were practicing low-altitude maneuvers, officials said. The agency spokesman said the two jets might have collided. The ASDF dispatched six search planes to waters 120 km southeast of Misawa Air Base, the last known position of the aircraft, which were piloted by First Lt. Hirokazu Nagai and First Lt. Madoka Nakaya, both 29.

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