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​The first unmanned QF-16 Viper struck down over the Gulf of Mexico Sept. 5, 2014. ​Air Force Photo by MSgt. J. Scott Wilcox.

The Air Force closed out the development phase of the QF-16 program on Sept. 5 when an unmanned Viper was struck down over the Gulf of Mexico, according to a Sept. 11 release. The test was a joint effort between the Test and Training Division at Eglin AFB, Fla., and the 82nd Aerial Target Squadron at Tyndall AFB, Fla. The final operational test “was the culmination of years of planning and aircrew training specifically tailored to stand up the next generation of full-scale aerial targets," said Lt. Col. Ryan Inman, 82nd ATRS commander. "The teamwork between members of Boeing, the Systems Program Office at Eglin, the 53rd Weapons Evaluation Group, and the 82nd ATRS enabled a nearly flawless test."
The QF-16 was targeted by air-to-air missiles after an auto-takeoff from Tyndall, states the release. "The aging fleet of the QF-4s and their limited capabilities against modern fighters have rendered the aerial target workhorse, Phantom II, at its technological limit," Inman said. "The QF-16 initiates the next chapter in advanced aerial targets, predominately in support of more technologically superior air-to-air weapons test and evaluation programs. The QF-16 will enable our leaner and more efficient Air Force to continue operations at maximum mission effectiveness while maintaining air superiority and global reach for decades to come."