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U.S. Air National Guard pilot rescued at sea after mid-air collision

By Gary Robertson

RICHMOND, Virginia (Reuters) - A pilot was rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard off the coast of Virginia after two Air National Guard fighter jets collided when their wings came in contact in mid-air, authorities said on Friday.

The F-16C Falcon jets from Joint Base Andrews in Maryland were on a routine training mission late on Thursday when they "clipped wings", the National Guard said in a statement.

They were about 35 miles southeast of Chincoteague, Virginia, according to the Coast Guard.

One of the pilots ejected and his ejection seat sent a satellite-aided distress signal that alerted the Coast Guard to the crash at 10:28 p.m. on Thursday, the Coast Guard said.

The pilot, who had minor injuries, used an emergency raft to stay afloat until he was rescued by an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter at about 12:30 a.m. Friday.

The other pilot was able to fly his jet back to base.

The pilots, who were not identified, are attached to the 113th Wing D.C. Air National Guard.

"We are extremely fortunate to have lost only metal, and not the life of one of our Airmen," Brigadier General Marc Sasseville, the 113th Wing Commander, said in a statement.

The Air National Guard said on Friday that salvage operations were under way to retrieve the damaged jet, which was in water 100 feet deep.

The cost of an F-16C Falcon jet is $18.8 million, according to the U.S. Air Force website.

(Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Gunna Dickson)

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