The first unmanned QF-16 Full Scale Aerial Target flight on Sept. 19 at Tyndall Air Force Base (Image © Staff Sergeant Javier Cruz/USAF)

First unmanned QF-16 airborne

The first unmanned QF-16 Full Scale Aerial Target flight on Sept. 19 at Tyndall Air Force Base (Image © Staff Sergeant Javier Cruz/USAF)
The first unmanned QF-16 Full Scale Aerial Target flight on Sept. 19 at Tyndall Air Force Base (Image © Staff Sergeant Javier Cruz/USAF)

The first Lockheed Martin QF-16 aerial target made its first unmanned flight, thanks to a joint effort of Boeing and the US Air Force.

Two USAF test pilots in a ground control station remotely flew the QF-16, which is a retired F-16 jet modified to be an aerial target. The QF-16 mission profile included automatic take-off, a series of simulated maneuvers, supersonic flight, and an auto land, all without a pilot in the cockpit. It looks weird – just see the video below.

,,It was a little different to see a F-16 take off without anyone in it, but it was a great flight all the way around,” said Lt. Col. Ryan Inman, the commander of the 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron.

The milestone flight initiates more operational evaluations, including a live fire test at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M. The Navy, Army and Air Force will ultimately use QF-16s for weapons testing and other training.

Boeing has modified six F-16s into the QF-16 configuration. Low-rate initial production is scheduled to begin in the fourth quarter, with first production deliveries in 2015. For decades the US aerial targets were dominated by the McDonnell Douglas QF-4 Phantom II, an aircraft from the Vietnam War era.

Source: Boeing