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LONDON (Reuters) - Two U.S. F-15 fighters went missing on a low-flying training mission over the Scottish Highlands on Monday and rescue workers were increasingly pessimistic after reports of an explosion. "As each hour and minute goes by, we are profoundly concerned about their fate," Royal Air Force spokesman Michael Mulford told Reuters after the fighters were reported overdue.
"In search and rescue, one never says never but at this point it is difficult to be anything but pessimistic," he said.
Contact was lost on both radar and radio from the fighters, on a training flight from their Lakenheath base in England.
"Someone has reported an explosion in the Cairngorms. We now have two Nimrod aircraft, three helicopters, two RAF mountain rescue teams and several civilian teams all searching," the spokesman said.
He said there were no reports of distress beacons. "This is something of a mystery. We are very concerned about the fate of these two pilots as there is simply no trace," Mulford added.
Mulford told Reuters: "Two F15 fighter-bombers left Lakenheath at 1230 heading towards Scotland on a low-fly exercise with enough fuel for three hours.
"At 1315, they were on a routine switch between two military air traffic control points, one at RAF Leuchars, the other at RAF Lossiemouth. During the call, radar and radio contact was lost so a major search was mounted.
"Subsequently someone rang up and said they had heard an explosion in the area and timed it at 1315."
[Edited by Dron, 27-03-2001]