Putting Viper to the Test

Weapons testers at Eglin AFB, Fla., are working to ensure that the QF-16, the Air Force’s next-generation full-scale aerial target, will meet the safety requirements for operating on USAF’s test ranges. Boeing is converting up to 126 early-model F-16s to the QF-16 configuration fur use as remotely piloted target drones to test the performance of new air-to-air and surface-to-air weapons. As part of the QF-16 safety certification, these testers last week blew apart an old F-16 on the Eglin range in a ground test to assess the flight-termination system that will be installed on the QF-16s. “This test was one step toward satisfying range safety requirements,” said Kevin Diggs, QF-16 test and evaluation lead. QF-16s are scheduled to enter service around 2014. They will replace the QF-4s currently in use. (Eglin report by Samuel King Jr.)