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F-16s fire Sidewinders at Qinetiq drone

October 10, 2006 (by Lieven Dewitte) - The US Air Forces Europe (USAFE) 555th 'Triple Nickel' F-16 Fighter Squadron has successfully completed its first air-to-air missile firing against Qinetiq's Mirach Aerial Target.
In the first week of deployment during Exercise Deployed Titan 06 at RAF Fairford, the aircraft fired eight AIM 9M Sidewinder missiles against a Mirach 100-5 aerial target drone. The squadron also carried out laser-guided bomb drops against surface targets at Aberporth MOD Range, which is operated by Qinetiq.

Skip MacQueen of the USAF said, "The purpose of our deployment was to provide the centrepiece fast-jet element to the RAF's largest annual exercise. We engaged in simulated combined air combat operations and Qinetiq provided comprehensive ranges services, which allowed us to conduct the first live AIM-9 Sidewinder missile launches against drone towed targets within the European Theatre."

MacQueen added, "This was a significant step up in tactical realism for USAFE missile training and provided the first opportunity for a number of the unit's pilots to employ one of their primary air-to-air weapons."

Mirach, Qinetiq's new aerial target system, is operated from the MOD range at Aberporth but can also be deployed to Scottish range sites. The company's mobile instrumentation assists in exercise planning and monitors and tracks the munitions fired by US aircrew.

USAFE is responsible for the combat weapons training of US aircrew assigned to its units based in Europe. The training focuses on precision guided munitions and air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles. The contract with Qinetiq allows a large portion of this training to be completed within Europe.

Qinetiq's range services and aerial target systems provide USAFE aircrews with a significant level of tactical training not available on any other European Range. Its Air Range danger areas - at Aberporth in Wales, and the Hebrides and West Freugh in Scotland - provide large practice areas for air-to-air missile engagements, defensive countermeasures and combat search and rescue missions.

The increased scope of USAFE training on UK MOD ranges last year led Qinetiq to purchase a number of surface targets along with an instrumented barge for data capture.

Exercise Deployed Titan 06, the Royal Air Force's largest UK based exercise this year, was held at RAF Fairford, Gloucestershire. Starting on September 23, just under 1300 personnel will had been moved to RAF Fairford by October 6. Every piece of equipment needed to operate has been moved in, just as it would have to be in a real operation outside the UK.

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