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02:22 PM, September 15, 2014
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The US Air Force's newest aerial target took a major step toward preparing warfighters downrange with a realistic fourth-generation replication of what they may face on the battlefield. 

The first unmanned QF-16 Viper struck down over the Gulf of Mexico Sept. 5, 2014, was part of a joint effort between the Test and Training Division at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, and the 82nd Aerial Target Squadron here. 

Currently, QF-4 Phantoms are used as targets to test pilots, aircraft and weapons before they reach the battlefield. 

The unmanned QF-16 performed an auto-takeoff from Tyndall AFB and was targeted by air-to-air missiles launched over the gulf test range. This successful final operational test validated the QF-16's capability to assess the end game performance of weapons employed against it, and closes out the development phase of the program, according to an official at Eglin AFB's testing division. 


This test was an important step in the right direction for the program and marked the conclusion of operational and range qualification testing at both the Eglin Test Range and White Sands Missile Range. 

"The successful mission is a direct result of the hard work, commitment and synergy between Air Combat Command, the Test and Training Division, the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group, the Boeing Company and numerous other stakeholders,” said Michele Hafers, the Test and Training Division director. “This test and training asset was born to fly and has flown its final mission validating our pilots and our weapons can maintain air dominance across the globe." 

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