TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE – The Air Force is celebrating a major milestone in a two year process to phase out the QF-4 Full Scale Aerial Target.
On Thursday, Tyndall Air Force Base conducted the first unmanned flight of a QF-16. It took off at 3:00 p.m. for an hour long mission which included a series of simulated maneuvers and supersonic speeds.
“The flight itself went very well,” said Thomas Mudge, 82nd ATRS pilot controller. “Its performance and abilities are great and we’re looking forward to this airplane.”
The first QF-16, which is a modified version of the F16 Fighting Falcon, was delivered to Tyndall in November 2012 for testing. The emergence of the U.S military’s 5th generation fighters, like the F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, created a demand for a more advanced target.
“(The QF-16) provides the shooters an aircraft that is completely a replication of current real world situations,” said Lt. Col. Ryan Inman, 82nd ATRS commander. “The new targets will allow the Air Force and allied nations to have a realistic understanding of what they could face.”
The QF-16 will eventually replace the QF-4, which had a rough July. One crashed during takeoff on July 17, forcing Tyndall to close U.S. 98 for several days. Six days earlier, Tyndall had to detonate a QF-4 done over the Gulf when it started to run low on fuel after a couple of failed returns to base.
“The QF-4 did a good job for many years, but it’s time to turn the page in the aerial target program,” said Inman. “This program will provide us with a mission capable, very sustainable aerial target to take us into the next 10 to 20 years.”
The QF-16 targets will be now move to Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico to begin testing on an air-to-ground system and live fire testing before returning to Tyndall for operation.