by Senior Airman Alex Echols
325th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
5/28/2015 - TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- The
82nd Aerial Target Squadron, a subordinate unit of the 53rd Weapons
Evaluation Group, flew its final QF-4 Phantom mission May 27 marking the
end of almost 20 years at Tyndall.
Two QF-4 full-scale aerial targets took off around 10:15 a.m. and were
successfully destroyed about 30 minutes later by pilots completing their
mission exactly as it was supposed to go.
"The QF-4 has really served the Air Force and the nation very well by
making sure that our weapons are qualified and tested, and we know
they're going to work when our pilots take them into harm's way," said
Jerry Heikkinen, 82nd ATRS drone remote controller and pilot. "Instead
of wasting away in the desert and sitting in long term storage, these
aircraft have been modified to provide valid combat effectiveness
testing for our military forces, and it's really a good way for these
airplanes to go."
Tyndall's QF-4 program initially started in 1997 and the destruction of
the last two QF-4s marks its replacement with the QF-16 Falcon.
"I feel very happy about the way things went today," said Heikkinen.
"The QF-4 has been a rouged and combat tested airplane to be used as a
target for our weapons testing program. Now we're going to move on to
using the modified QF-16 as our aerial target."
Like the QF-4, the QF-16 is a full-scale aerial target that can be flown
manned or unmanned. Unlike the QF-4, the QF-16 has all the capabilities
of a newer generation aircraft.
"We get much more maneuverability out of it, and essentially we have a
fully capable F-16 Falcon," said Lt. Col. Matthew Garrison, 82nd ATRS
Director of Operations. "It can pull 9 G's, go supersonic and climb up
to 55,000 ft. just like the front line fighters. We now have that as a
The full-scale aerial target program could not be accomplished without a
team of invaluable maintainers, analysts, engineers, pilots and members
that make the testing of the Air Force's weapons systems possible.
"It is a team effort," said Heikkinen.
While this is the last QF-4 flight for Tyndall, the QF-4 still flies at Holloman AFB, N.M.