JACKSONVILLE, Fla., 12 May 2012. Boeing Co. [NYSE: BA] and the U.S. Air Force completed the first manned flight of the QF-16 Full Scale Aerial Target (FSAT) on May 4 at Cecil Field in Jacksonville.
The flight was part of an Air Force contract awarded in March 2010 that represented Phase I of the initial engineering, manufacturing and development of the QF-16, with options to buy up to 126 FSATs.
QF-16s are F-16 Fighting Falcons that are modified for use as a target. Any unneeded parts, such as the Vulcan six-barrel 20mm cannon, are removed and additional hardware is installed that allows the QF-16 to fly in an unmanned mode while under the control of a ground-based control system such as the Gulf Range Drone Control System at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., or the Drone Formation Control System at White Sands Missile Range (WSMR), N.M.
The functional check flight of the F-16, under control of a Boeing test pilot validated the aircraft's performance with the QF-16 drone modification package installed. During the test phase in Jacksonville, a GRDCS mobile trailer with portable transmission towers will provide communications between the flight controller and other personnel on the ground and the QF-16 pilot.
The QF-16s are a higher-performing aircraft than the QF-4 they replace, QF-16s are able to travel at speeds in excess of Mach 2 and maneuver more tightly, and represent fourth-generation targets. They will be flown manned or unmanned within a controlled range and equipped to evaluate how U.S. fighters and weapons will operate against potential opponents.
Boeing will deliver six QF-16 test aircraft to Tyndall in October for additional testing over the Gulf Range. After the conclusion of these tests Boeing will support government flight testing from Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., over the WSMR complex.