The QF-4 Phantom targeting drone visited Hill AFB, Utah, for the last time Tuesday as the aircraft moves steadily toward its retirement. Hill has been home of the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s F/QF-4 System Program Office since the 1990s, according to a Hill news release. QF-4s are standard F-4s that have been reconfigured as unmanned aircraft for use in full-scale aerial target missions. The last unmanned QF-4 was shot down Aug. 17 at White Sands Missile Range, N.M. The aircraft is also flown on manned missions, however, as Lt. Col Ron King and Jim Harkins from Holloman AFB, N.M., demonstrated Tuesday in their flybys before they landed at Hill. “I felt like we had an opportunity and an obligation to get this aircraft on the road one more time because so many people have this connection with it,” King said, according to the release. “It’s just been absolutely amazing for me to do this.” The last manned QF-4 flight is scheduled for Dec. 21. The aircraft is being replaced by the QF-16, which achieved initial operational capacity on Sept. 23. The Air Force currently has 13 QF-4s, which will eventually be used as ground targets.
Reports of production troubles on the SpaceX rocket that could contend for military cargo deliveries happened to coincide with a different company’s concept receiving an early nod—one that might not require a rocket at all.