NORFOLK, SEPT. 22 -- A U.S. Air Force reconnaissance jet was accidentally shot down today by a Navy F14 fighter over the Mediterranean Sea during NATO exercises, but the two Air Force crewmen ejected safely, the Navy said.
The Air Force RF4C jet was downed by an air-to-air missile fired by the F14, said Cmdr. Jolene Keefer, a spokeswoman for Naval Air Force Atlantic. The Air Force plane was from Tactical Reconnaissance Wing 26 at Wiesbaden Air Base in West Germany.
The F14, from the carrier USS Saratoga, can carry the long-range Phoenix missile, the medium-range Sparrow and the short-range Sidewinder, but Keefer said she did not know which hit the Air Force jet.
A helicopter from the Saratoga picked up the two Air Force officers within 30 minutes and took them to the Saratoga, Keefer said.
"Neither of the men suffered any apparent injuries and both are in good health," she said.
Keefer identified the Air Force officers as 1st Lt. Randy Spouse of Sumter, S.C., the pilot, and Capt. Michael Ross of Portsmouth, Ohio, the weapons officer.
She did not have the names of the two crewmen of the F14, which is attached to Fighter Squadron 74 at Oceana Naval Air Station in Virginia Beach.
The accident occurred at 3:50 p.m. EDT, she said.
"The cause of the accident is under investigation by Navy and Air Force personnel," a Defense Department spokesman said. "Obviously, beyond that we don't have any information at this time."
Asked whether using live ammunition was standard during exercises, Lt. Col. Jim Jannette said "depending on the exercise and the nature of it, we may or may not use live weapons."
"It doesn't necessarily mean they had a warhead that was armed," he said, explaining that the physical impact of the missile alone could have been enough to bring down the plane.