TOKYO, Sept. 22 (Xinhua) — A U.S. fighter jet crashed off the coast of Japan's southernmost prefecture of Okinawa on Thursday afternoon shortly after taking off from an air base in the region, the Defense Ministry and local government officials here said.

Local media quoted the ministry, local government officials, as well as a Japanese coast guard representative as saying that a U.S. Air Force Harrier fighter jet crashed off the east coast of Okinawa on Thursday afternoon at around 1:55 p.m, shortly after taking off from the United States Air Force (USAF) Kadena Air Base.

The base is located in the towns of Kadena and Chatan and the city of Okinawa, in Okinawa Prefecture.

The plane is believed to have crashed into the sea around 130 kilometers east of Cape Hedo located at the north end of the southern island prefecture, local reports said.

Public broadcaster NHK said that an Air Self-Defense Force (ASDF) plane had been deployed to the potential crash site to gather more information, while Japanese authorities also said the coastguard has been dispatched, with a helicopter and patrol vessel also searching for the downed jet.

Local media in Okinawa said the jet is believed to be an AV8B Harrier II ground attack aircraft. As with all "Harrier Jump Jets, " the iconic plane is capable of vertical or short takeoffs and landings.