After it just recently served as a surface-to-air target for the first time, the Air Force announced the first successful downing of the pilotless QF-16 drone:
The first unmanned QF-16 Viper struck down over the Gulf of Mexico Sept. 5 was part of a joint effort between the Test and Training Division at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., and the 82nd Aerial Target Squadron here at Tyndall.
The QF-16 is slated to eventually replace the current QF-4 full-scale drones. Read more
According to the Air Force Times, the Air Force has reported that a manned QF-4 crash in July was caused by a flight control malfunction. A stab actuator disconnected and caused an uncommanded, and uncontrollable, pitch up.
The article notes the $2.4 million Read more
A US Air Force fighter pilot is safe after ejecting from his QF-4 near Roswell, New Mexico. The QF-4s fly out of Holloman AFB.
The QF-4 is an optionally manned aircraft often used as a target drone for weapons testing.
Most people don’t realize the US Air Force still flies F-4s. The Phantoms were well known for their anti-SAM role in Desert Storm, though they made their mark in history during Vietnam.
The 82nd Aerial Target Squadron is now using the F-4 to tow target banners for aerial gunnery practice. Unmanned QF-4s continue to fly in a variety of other full-scale target applications.
Lacking the sleek and aerodynamic look of many other aircraft, the F-4 used to be cited as proof that with enough thrust, you can get a brick to fly.
According to an Air Force press release, an F-16 was intentionally blown up as part of an ongoing program to convert the F-16s to QF-16 target/drones. The explosion was apparently a part of the test of the “flight termination system,” or the kill switch that allows a controller to destroy a wayward unmanned vehicle. (Perhaps one flying into DC’s airspace?)
The first QF-16 is scheduled to be delivered in 2014. The QF-16 will replace the QF-4, the third generation full-scale aerial target drone.