The first Boeing QF-16 target drone arrived at Tyndall AFB, Florida, earlier this week on 19 November for the start of its developmental test phase. Boeing is developing the QF-16 for the US Air Force (USAF) out of retired Lockheed Martin F-16 airframes to replace old BAE Systems QF-4 Phantom aerial targets.
"The work done prior to today and the test work that is forthcoming will enable the air force to transition from a third-generation, Vietnam-era aerial target performance to fourth-generation threat replication and beyond," says Lt Col Lance Wilkins, commander of the 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron. "The QF-16 will take air-to-air testing and evaluation to the next level."
The developmental test phase should last about six months-it will ensure the aircraft is compatible with the Gulf Range drone control system. The QF-16 will subsequently be sent to Holloman AFB, New Mexico, for four months of integrated testing according to the USAF. After the completion of those tests, the aircraft will be returned to Tyndall AFB where it will eventually be declared operational.
The USAF expects delivery of the first production QF-16 in 2014.