The Ministry of Defence is meeting to assess whether the search for two RAF airmen who went missing after two Tornado jets crashed off the north coast of Scotland can resume.

Four personnel from RAF Lossiemouth were involved in the incident, in which the Tornado GR4s came down in the Moray Firth on Tuesday.

A rescue helicopter picked up two people who were taken to hospital in Inverness, before continuing to search for the remaining pair.

A Ministry of Defence (MoD) spokesman said the search had been suspended at around 7.30pm on Tuesday night, adding: "The search was called off due to bad weather." He said they intended to continue the search "when the weather clears" on Wednesday.

Aberdeen coastguard said they were standing by for information. The coastguard contacted the RNLI for assistance at around 1.50pm on Tuesday after reports that the jets came down about 25 miles south of Wick. About 15 lifeboat volunteers joined the rescue operation in boats from Wick, Invergordon and Buckie, the RNLI said.

The boats headed for the Beatrice oil field area, supported by a helicopter from Stornoway in the Western Isles. Crew from the Buckie boat reported that two people were taken from the sea by helicopter and flown to Raigmore Hospital, although their condition is not known.

Group Captain Ian Gale, the station commander, said in an MoD statement his thoughts were with the families and friends of those involved. He said: "The circumstances remain uncertain but clearly this is a very serious incident."

"I can confirm that two individuals have been recovered and two remain unaccounted for," he added. "Rescue operations are continuing and I would like to record my gratitude for the ongoing efforts of all those involved."

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 and offer my thanks to all those involved. The Scottish Government stands ready to offer any necessary assistance, and we will make a further statement once more details are confirmed."