Officials say a search-and-rescue mission to find two missing crewmen after RAF Tornado jets that crashed off the coast of Scotland has been downgraded to a recovery mission.

Four crew members from RAF Lossiemouth were involved in the incident in which two Tornado GR4s plunged into the Moray Firth off the northeast coast of Scotland.

A rescue helicopter plucked two people from the waters, who were taken to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness. Their conditions have not been revealed.

Fred Caygill, a coastguard spokesman, said: "The search-and-rescue phase of the mission was terminated yesterday evening.

"We are now in a recovery phase. We stand by to assist the Ministry of Defence."

It is thought that the two jets may have collided in midair. There were reports that only one aircraft was seen in the water.

About 15 lifeboat volunteers joined the hunt in three boats after reports surfaced of the jets coming down 25 miles south of Wick.

RAF Group Captain Ian Gale said: "It is with great regret that I must confirm the loss of two Tornado GR4 aircraft from this station.

"The circumstances remain uncertain but clearly this is a very serious incident.

"This incident involved four aircrew, all personnel from this station."

Scotland's first minister, Alex Salmond, said: "This is clearly a very serious incident and my thoughts are with the loved ones of those affected. I understand rescue services have done all they can to help with the situation.

"The Scottish government stands ready to offer any necessary assistance."

In January 2011, a Tornado GR4 based at RAF Lossiemouth crashed into the sea off northwest Scotland. All the crew ejected safely.