As no Phantoms are left to be converted after the last one left the 309th AMARG (Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group) based in Tuscon, Arizona to join the 82nd Aerial Target Squadron at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, the role of aerial target (i.e. manned or unmanned aircraft flown as target and decoy within a controlled range for testing against potential adversaries, radars, surface-air missiles etc) is to be undertaken by the QF-16.
Although the F-16 is a famous Lockheed plane, the contract to develop the “Viper Drone” aerial target was awarded to Boeing.
The conversion of F-16 into a QF-16 takes about 6 months; 220 airframes are to undergo this treatment.
The first QF-16 Full Scale Aerial Target took off from Boeing facility at Cecil Field in Jacksonville, Florida, and climbed to an altitude of 41,000 feet during its 66-minute first flight that marked its first manned flight.
The first F-16C destined to be shot down is an F-16C, 85-1570, serving in theof the ; by the way, the Air National Guard has been the largest “Viper” operator of the world.
Written with David Cenciotti
Image credit: Boeing