TOKYO (Kyodo) -- The Japan Air Self-Defense Force said it has found the bodies of two pilots who were aboard an F-15 fighter that crashed into the Sea of Japan in late January.
The first body was discovered last Friday and the other one on Sunday in waters near the crash site about 5 kilometers west-northwest of the Komatsu Air Base in Ishikawa Prefecture, central Japan, according to the ASDF.
The two pilots were identified as ASDF Col. Koji Tanaka, 52, and Capt. Ryusei Ueta, 33.
After Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force divers found the bodies, MSDF vessels transported them separately to the base.
The MSDF, the ASDF and a local unit of the Japan Coast Guard had been conducting search and rescue operations around the site of the Jan. 31 crash, which occurred soon after takeoff around 5:30 p.m. as the plane was on its way for training with three other fighter jets.
The pilots belonged to the tactical fighter training group based at the base, where Tanaka was the top group commander. They were in a two-seater aircraft, with Tanaka in the front and Ueta in the rear.
They were considered to be highly skilled as the group's mission is to instruct fighter units in the art of flying, while playing the role of potential adversaries.
"The loss of outstanding pilots is extremely saddening," said Gen. Shunji Izutsu, chief of staff of the ASDF, in a statement. "We will investigate the cause of the incident and prevent similar incidents from happening, and make every effort to ensure safety in the air."