The last QF-4 unmanned aerial target assigned to Tyndall AFB, Fla., was shot down May 27 by Florida Air National Guard and 53rd Weapons Evaluation Group F-15C pilots, USAF spokesman 1st Lt. Christopher Bowyer-Meeder told Air Force Magazine. The target drone was hit by three missiles, a combination of AIM-120s and AIM-9s, during Operation Quick Draw “before it finally died,” said Bowyer-Meeder. “So, it went down fighting.” Built from Vietnam-era F-4 Phantoms, the QF-4, which mimics enemy air maneuvers, carried electronic and infrared countermeasures used to evaluate fighters and weapons flown and fired against it. It could be flown by computer or controlled manually by a mobile control station located on the runway, which was operated by members of the 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron, according to a Tyndall release. The QF-4 fleet is being replaced by supersonic reusable full-scale QF-16 aerial drones, which are modified from F-16 Fighting Falcons. Holloman AFB, N.M., will continue to fly QF-4s for “another one to two years before being completely retired,” according to a USAF release. The 53rd WEG currently operates eight QF-16s, said Bowyer-Meeder. (See also QF-16 Production Lot 3 Issued.)
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.