A senior Turkish military commander says Turkey is retiring its RF-4E Phantom reconnaissance planes, following two crashes that killed four pilots last month.

Combat Air Force Commander Gen. Abidin Unal told reporters on Wednesday that the Turkish Air Force had decided to ground the planes as of March 12, retiring them several months earlier than scheduled.

The two RF-4E planes crashed into a mountain in Malatya, central Turkey, during night training exercises on Feb. 24. Nine days later, an F-4 Phantom jet also crashed, killing its two pilots and raising questions about the safety of Turkey's aging fleet.

Unal said reconnaissance flights would now be carried out by F-16 jets.