One Marine rescued, 6 missing after planes collide off Japan

A Marine Corps KC-130 is seen in this 2016

Search and rescue operations were underway at the scene.

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

Search and rescue efforts were under way off Japan after two US Marine Corps aircraft crashed in a still-unexplained mishap, leaving seven US military personnel missing, US officials said. The accident occurred at around 2 a.m. Thursday, local time (12 p.m. Wednesday ET).

U.S. media say the two planes crashed during midair refuelling but this has not been officially confirmed.

ABC News reported that a total of seven people were thought to be on the two aircraft.

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A Facebook posting by the III Marine Expeditionary Force said the incident took place 200 miles (320km) off the coast.

In a statement, the Marine Corps said the planes had taken off from Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in southern Japan.

The BBC's Rupert Wingfield-Hayes in Tokyo says that air-to-air refuelling is a hard and potentially risky flight operation, especially when done at night.

Marine Corps officials confirmed the incident but offered little information in a statement. Two aviators were on the F/A-18 Hornet, while five Marines were on the KC-130.

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