First unmanned F-16 flight tested — Defense Systems

First unmanned F-16 flight tested — Defense Systems.

The U.S. Air Force conducted the first test flight of an unmanned F-16 fighter configured as a future aerial target.

The hour-long test flight on Sept. 19, 2013, was conducted by the 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., as part of a two-year phase-out of the service’s QF-4 aerial target. The QF-16 would become the Air Force’s fourth-generation aerial target aircraft.

The unmanned F-16 was flown by a pilot controller on the opposite side of the air base. After takeoff, the QF-16 flew a series of simulated maneuvers, reaching supersonic speeds before returning to base and landing, the Air Force said.

The new aerial target aircraft is needed for training with the deployment of fifth-generation fighters like the F-22 and F-35.

The first QF-16 was delivered to the Florida air base in 2012 for operational and development testing. Air Force testing now moves to Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., where the QF-16 will be flown in live-fire air-to-ground scenarios.

Boeing Co. is the Air Force contractor for the QF-16 program.