U.S. Air Force to shoot down its own F-16 (aerial target drones)

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 the Air National Guard of the New York state; by the way, the Air National Guard has been the largest “Viper” operator of the world.

Written with David Cenciotti

Image credit: Boeing

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About Jacek Siminski
Standing contributor for TheAviationist. Aviation photojournalist. Co-Founder of DefensePhoto.com. Expert in linguistics, Cold War discourse, Cold War history and policy and media communications.


  1. Pretty amusing that these 200 targets make up a larger, more advanced air force, than all but 4 or 5 countries in the world. And we’re going to shoot them down. LOL

    • Well before the Obaman Islanist Brotherhood takes over the U S A ,Might as well get rid of some of the weapomery, So it cannot be used against the whity population in U S A lol

  2. 85-1570 is the first FSAT F-16 to be shot down, fortunately her sister 85-1571 (F-16D) is still flying strong with my squadron, in fact she flew twice today and came back code 1.

  3. Why are the F-16s in line before the F-15s?
    And here’s another question, why don’t they produce cheap drones for aerial targeting rather than shoot down perfectly functional ones?

  4. What a waste… They should exchange these with the Japanese Phantoms so we could have a better Pacific presence before the F35 will be really operational.

  5. Actually your first line is incorrect. There are still several hundred F-4s at AMARC that could be converted, however the contract for them has expired. Additionally, the QF-4 is expensive to operate (2 engines = more fuel), so the F-16 was tapped as an relatively cheaper option. And there are a lot of them out there too with all of the retirements.
    Why the F-15 wasn’t considered? Too costly to operate as a QF (2 engines again) and maybe the cost to convert them was prohibitive.

    • Thanks i did it know it. All the sources said that after the last Phantom would be converted they would turn to F-16’s

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