March 9, 2010 (by Forrest Gossett) - Boeing has been awarded a U.S. Air Force contract worth approximately $69.7 million for the initial engineering, manufacturing and development of QF-16 Full Scale Aerial Targets to replace the QF-4 fleet.
This jet, #84-1260, will be the first F-16 to be converted into a drone
Under the terms of the remainder of the contract, expected to be awarded in coming years, up to 126 QF-16 drones will deliver beginning in 2014.
Boeing engineers and support personnel will convert retired F-16 aircraft into QF-16s for use as aerial targets for newly developed weapons and tactics. The drones, which will be equipped to evaluate how U.S. fighters and weapons will operate against potential adversaries, will be flown within a controlled range and used for testing. They will be able to fly either manned or unmanned.
QF-16 design and development will take place in St. Louis. Ground and flight testing and production will be completed at the Boeing facility in Cecil Field, Fla., near Jacksonville.
"We are honored and prepared to provide the U.S. Air Force, the 691st Armament Systems Squadron, and the QF-16 Program with next-generation, full-scale aerial targets through a low-risk, affordable, technically superior solution," said Steve Waltman, director of Boeing Aircraft Sustainment & Maintenance.
The Boeing-led QF-16 team, which includes BAE
Systems in Johnson City, N.Y., meets all requirements presented in the QF-16 design, development and production contract. Collectively, the Boeing team has 33 years of experience with drone systems.