KEY WEST, Fla. – Even with many Americans in conflict abroad, it might raise a few eyebrows to hear that Navy flyers based in Key West are also busy, fighting against an enemy that's already invaded seven times this year.
The good news is that their foe is based in Nevada (search) and attacks for training purposes only.
The "Fighting Saints" (search) are a squadron of forty Navy pilots based in Fallon, Nev., whose current mission is to serve as mock enemies for young fellow pilots based in Key West (search). The hope is that through repetition of combat situations, the training pilots will be better prepared for actual air conflict.
As Saint Commander Jim diMatteo said, "If you don't practice, then when you get to the game, you're not going to be very good."
The training starts with the basics, but soon the Saints and their training counterparts are tangling in dogfights in the skies off of Key West. In order to maximize the returns on such training, Saints make every effort to resemble foreign fighters as closely as possible.
Recently their supersonic F-5 jets bore the colors of Russian fighters, but paint is just the beginning of the Saints' mimicry.
"We'll simulate the capabilities of the weapons systems and we'll also simulate the mindset of the fighter pilots in those other countries," said diMatteo.
Apparently, the Navy feels that the imitation is effective and beneficial. There's now talk of stationing "enemy" pilots in the Keys permanently.
Click on the video box above to see a video report by FOX News' Orlando Salinas.