The QF-16 aerial target drone took to the skies at Holloman AFB, N.M., for the first time on Feb. 10, according to an Air Force release. QF-16s are retired F-16s modified to fly unmanned missions as full-scale target aircraft for US and international partner exercises. Boeing contracted with the Air Force in March 2016 to produce 30 QF-16s. The new fleet will take over for the QF-4 unmanned target aircraft, which was officially retired in December 2016. The QF-16 reached initial operating capability in September 2016. Like the QF-4, the QF-16 can fly either manned or unmanned missions, and the initial Holloman flight was manned. “Manned flying is critical in our development of the remote control and unmanned mission capabilities necessary for us to provide QF-16 full-scale aerial targets to our Department of Defense and foreign military sales customers,” said Lt. Col. Ronald King, 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron, Det. 1 commander, who piloted the detachment’s first QF-16 flight, according to the release.
Update: This entry was updated on Feb. 22, 2017, with the correct state for Holloman Air Force Base.