by 2nd Lt. Andrea Valencia
325th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
9/24/2013 - TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- The QF-16 full scale aerial target's inaugural unmanned flight occurred Sept. 19.
The 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron and Boeing Co. conducted the flight,
which is the first step in a two year process to phase out the QF-4 full
scale aerial target.
"The QF-4 did a good job for many years, but it's time to turn the page
in the aerial target program. This program will bring us into the 4th
generation aircraft," said Lt. Col. Ryan Inman, 82nd ATRS commander.
"And will provide us with a mission capable, very sustainable aerial
target to take us into the next 10 to 20 years."
A pilot performed all normal preflight checks before climbing out of the
cockpit and locking the canopy from the outside. Control was then
turned over to Thomas Mudge, 82nd ATRS pilot controller, sitting in a
control room on the opposite side of base. The QF-16 took off at 3 p.m.
for an hour long mission profile including take off, conducting a series
of simulated maneuvers and reaching supersonic speeds before returning
to base and landing.
"The flight itself went very well," said Mudge. "Its performance and
abilities are great and we're looking forward to this airplane."
The first QF-16 was delivered to Tyndall in November 2012 for
operational and developmental testing to ensure their viability for
aerial targets. The QF-16 is a supersonic reusable full-scale aerial
target modified from an F16 Fighting Falcon. The emergence of U.S. 5th
generation fighters such as the F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Lightning means
American forces need an advanced target, similar to what they would
actually find on the battle field.
"It takes it to the next generation, which now provides the shooters an
aircraft that is completely a replication of current real world
situations," said Inman. "The new targets will allow the Air Force and
allied nations to have a realistic understanding of what they could
With successful testing at Tyndall complete, the targets will be now
move to Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., to begin testing on an
air-to-ground system. They will be part of live-fire testing before
being sent back to Tyndall for operation.
The 82nd ATRS is part of the 53rd Weapons Evaluation Group, which falls
under the 53rd Wing at Eglin Air Force Base. The unit operates the
Department of Defense's only full-scale aerial target program, which
provides Air Force, Navy, Marine and Army customers targets for
developmental and operational tests.