For the First Time: Unmanned F-16 Plane A retired fighter plane has been converted into an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), in a special development by the company Boeing. The plane will accurately simulate fighter jets and serve as an aerial target in different training exercises in branches of the U.S. military

Shir Aharon Bram

An F-16 fighter jet that went out of use and has transformed into a plane without a pilot successfully took off, completed its flight, and landed at the American airbase, Tindal, in Florida. The plane, which will now be marked as a QF-16, is part of an innovative project by the company, Boeing. As part of the project, five more disabled planes will also be upgraded.

The latest QF-16 plane will serves as an “aerial target plane” for the American military. The plane was designed in such a way that it could automatically take off, perform aerial maneuvers and exercises, fly faster than the speed of sound, and land on the ground, without a pilot in the cockpit. “The experience embodied in the F-16 taking off on its own, without any in it, is something out of the ordinary, but the flight was excellent by all accounts”, said Commander of the Aerial Target Squadron of the U.S. Air Force, Lieutenant Colonel Ryan Inman. “We now have an aerial target plane that has been proven to be viable and is equipped with comprehensive advanced systems, which will take us to the future”.

The QF-16 plane will hold extensive training exercises with all branches of the U.S. military, including: the Navy, the Air Force, Ground Forces, and even units that works with special weapons and need to test them. The company Boeing expects to finish developing the rest of the planes by 2015.

The use of unmanned fighter jets as aerial targets is a evolving area in the world of aviation. It is customary to use certain unmanned aerial vehicles as targets, but they aren’t capable of perfectly simulating air-to-air combat. By contrast, full size fighter jets accurately perform maneuvers and exercises that the enemy is likely to carry out, and may thus help in the training of the pilots.