F-16 Flies Pilot-Free (With Video)
Boeing flew an F-16 without a pilot for the first time last week, the company said on Tuesday. The Air Force plans to use the modified aircraft as a target drone for weapons testing and other aerial training. So far, six of the retired airplanes have been modified into the Full Scale Aerial Target, or QF-16, mode, and another 120 from the fleet are expected to follow. "Now we have a 9G-capable, highly sustainable aerial target," said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Ryan Inman, commander of the 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron. The aircraft provides "a replication of current, real-world situations and aircraft platforms," Inman said.
The initial test flights took place at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida. The aircraft flew maneuvers up to 40,000 feet, at speeds up to Mach 1.47, and pulled up to 7 Gs. The modified airplanes now will be moved to New Mexico for live-fire testing. Two ground-based pilots will operate each aircraft.