An American soldier stands guard
An American soldier stands guard Reuters

Italian coast guards on Thursday recovered the body of the pilot of an F-16 US Air Force jet that went missing over the Adriatic Sea three days ago during a training mission, ANSA news agency reported.

The plane is believed to have crashed due to a technical malfunction while it was flying back at night to the US base of Aviano in northeast Italy.

The body was found at around 1300 GMT some four nautical miles (7.4 kilometres, 4.6 miles) from the port of Pesaro, the Italian news report said, according to AFP.

A fishing boat had recovered a helmet and a parachute in the same area on Wednesday.

The base's public affairs office said it could not confirm the report after it had been contacted by AFP.

The wife of the pilot, Lucas Gruenther, 32, had expressed confidence on Wednesday that he was alive.

"If anyone could survive something like this, it would be Luc," Cassy Gruenther was quoted as saying in a statement posted on the website of Aviano base.

She is pregnant with the couple's first child.