YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — U.S. Forces Korea commander Gen. Leon J. LaPorte expressed condolences Friday for the four South Korean air force members killed in two separate crashes Wednesday.

South Korean air force officials confirmed Friday that the crews of the F-4E and F-5F, which went missing during training exercises, were dead.

“We mourn the loss of these brave pilots who died training to defend peace and security here in Korea,” LaPorte was quoted as saying in a USFK news release. “On behalf of all USFK servicemembers, I express our deepest sympathies and condolence to the families of those whose lives were lost as a result of these incidents.

“We solemnly honor the proud memory of our brothers who have made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of freedom,” LaPorte stated in the release.

According to local news reports, the fighter jets crashed within eight minutes of each other and the South Korean air force formed two teams to investigate the accidents.

According to a report in the Korea Times, air force officials said a factor in the accidents might be that the F-4E was built 37 years ago and the F-5F is 22 years old.

South Korea announced in 2004 that it wants to buy 40 F-15s to replace its aging fleet of jets, according to the Korea Times report.

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