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U.S. fighter jet missing off coast of Italy

| Monday, Jan. 28, 2013, 9:12 p.m.

WASHINGTON — U.S. and Italian aircraft searched the Adriatic Sea after losing contact with a U.S. fighter jet believed to have crashed during a training mission off the coast of Italy.

The headquarters of the 31st Fighter Wing, at Aviano Air Base in Italy, said in a statement that the F-16 fighter had one pilot aboard when contact was lost on Monday evening.

There was no early word on the fate of the plane or the pilot.

“The search for and rescue of our pilot is our top priority,” said Col. David W. Walker, 31st operations group commander at Aviano. “We want to assure the family and friends of the lost airman that we are doing everything we can for this effort.”

Initial word was that the F-16, which had taken off from Aviano, was not carrying weapons.

Italian aircraft and boats were helping in the search.

The paramilitary Carabinieri force deployed helicopters, the Italian coast guard had motorboats in the area and Italian air force helicopters were involved.

The search was focused on waters off a 9.5-mile stretch of coast between Cervia and Cesenatico in the northwestern end of the Adriatic.

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