Military officials say the two pilots at the controls of the F-16 jets that collided over Georgia are seasoned combat veterans — and so are the jets they were flying.

The aircraft were built in 1993, and officials say they have flown in hundreds of combat missions, including the fiery 2003 attack on Baghdad to bring down Saddam Hussein's government.

South Carolina National Guard commander Maj. Gen. Robert Livingston says that at the time of Tuesday's crash, the pilots were part of a six-jet unit practicing a high-tech "cat-and-mouse game" of electronic warfare in preparation for an upcoming deployment. Both pilots survived.

The warplanes are the first to enter enemy territory, where they seek out and destroy opposing radars and anti-aircraft missile sites to make it safer for other troops and planes to follow them.