Lithuanian jet crashes after midair collision

By the Associated Press | August 30, 2011 | 5:15 AM EDT

VILNIUS, Lithuania (AP) — A Lithuanian military plane crashed Tuesday after colliding midair with a French NATO jet, and rescuers were searching for two pilots who ejected after the collision, Lithuania's Defense Ministry said.

The French Mirage fighter managed to land after the accident near the Zokniai air base in northern Lithuania, while the pilots of the Lithuanian L39 plane ejected before their plane crashed, Defense Ministry spokeswoman Jovita Bazeviciute told The Associated Press.

Rescuers were searching for the pilots, whose condition was not immediately clear, she said.

France has fighter jets based at Zokniai as part of NATO's air patrols over the Baltic countries.

In Paris, a spokesman for the French Air Force confirmed an accident involving a French plane in the area, but did not immediately provide further details.

French Defense Ministry spokesman Laurent Teisseire said he didn't immediately have any information about the incident, but said France now holds the rotating responsibility for air defenses for NATO over the Baltic countries, which don't have any significant air defense resources of their own.