The airplane carrying four U.S. Navy aviators that did not return to its aircraft carrier Tuesday night crashed into Kita Io Jima, an uninhabited western Pacific island about 45 miles north of Iwo Jima, Navy officials announced Wednesday morning.

The four-seater S-3B Viking took off from the USS John C. Stennis and was participating in joint U.S. military air and sea exercises with the USS Kitty Hawk.

When asked if there was any chance the crew could have survived the crash, Lt. Cmdr. Marc Boyd, a 7th Fleet spokesman, said, “The investigation into the cause of the accident is ongoing. Search-and-rescue efforts are ongoing, as well.”

Aircraft from the Stennis and Kitty Hawk were searching the island for the four, whose names weren’t released Wednesday because of a mandatory 24-hour waiting period following notification of next of kin.

Communications with the S-3B Viking were lost at 7:42 p.m. Tuesday, Boyd said. He added that there was no prior distress call.

Kita Io Jima is a two-square-mile volcanic island. Boyd said sunset there was at 6:15 p.m. but said he did not know what the weather conditions were at the time of the crash.

The pilots were part of the “Blue Wolves” squadron, based at Naval Air Station North Island in San Diego.

At the time of the crash, the aircraft, assigned to the air station’s Sea Control Squadron 35, was conducting a routine training mission with the Stennis and Kitty Hawk carrier strike groups as part of the Joint Air-Sea Exercise, or JASEX ’04.

The S-3B Viking can perform a variety of missions, including day and night surveillance, electronic countermeasures, command/control/communications warfare and search and rescue.

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.

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