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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Retired F-16 Jet Completes First Converted Unmanned Flight

Woodrow Bellamy III

The U.S. Air Force began demonstrating the next generation of air combat training and testing aircraft last week, completing the first flight of a converted F-16 jet with no pilot in the cockpit. 
(QF-16 takes off remotely piloted at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. Photo, courtesy of Master Sergeant J. Scott Wilcox.)
The QF-16 Full Scale Aerial Target, a retired F-16 jet modified to fly as an unmanned aircraft system (UAS), completed a series of simulated maneuvers, including supersonic flight, prior to landing autonomously. The QF-16 is the result of a 2010 $70 million Department of Defense (DoD) contract awarded to Boeing to convert six early-generation F-16 jets into full-scale aerial targets. 
To convert the F-16 to a remotely piloted aircraft, Boeing installs new electronic control equipment that allows the jet to be operated via data links from a ground control station. 
“It was a little different to see it without anyone in it, but it was a great flight all the way around,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Ryan Inman, commander, 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron. “It’s a replication of current, real world situations and aircraft platforms they can shoot as a target. Now we have a 9G capable, highly sustainable aerial target.”

By converting retired F-16 jets to the QF-16 configuration, Boeing allows fighter pilots to train against actual fighter jets with live weapons. The development could also lead to production of unmanned fighter jets remotely piloted from the ground. 


Related: Unmanned Systems News 

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