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The F-16 Converted Into Unmanned Drone

The F-16 Converted Into Unmanned Drone

The F-16, nicknamed the “Viper”

The F-16 fighting falcon officially called the Fighting falcon, and nickname the Viper is a single engine, multi-role fighter. Developed by General Dynamic for the United States Air Force (USAF). In 1993, Lockheed bought General Dynamic for 1.52 billion USD in cash and merged with Martin Marieta in 1995, becoming Lockheed Martin.

Boeing coverts F-16 into unmanned fighters

In a surprise statement, Boeing announced that the company has retrofitted several out-of-service Lockheed Martin F-16 fighter jets that have been abandoned in an aircraft graveyard called ARMAC in Arizona for 15 years and had converted them into unmanned military aerial fighters. The idea behind this was to maximize the potential of the aircraft during war times without the risk of losing human lives. The QF-16 fighter jets are now equipped to fly into any war zone, enabling the fighter jets to be flown remotely without the need of a pilot. Instead, an army pilot would sit at any given location and control the plane from their remote location.

F-16 abandoned at the graveyard in Arizona

QF-16 first aerial test

On the 19th of September 2013 Boeing successfully tested the first unmanned F-16, (QF-16) at the Tyndall Air Force base by performing combat maneuvers, and flying at an altitude of 40,000 ft (12,192 meters) at a speed of 1,119 mph (1,800 km/h or 1.47 mach). And on the 5th of September 2014, the test and training division from Eglin Air Force Base, and the 82nd Aerial Target Squadron at Tyndall Air Force successfully downed the first unmanned QF-16 over the Gulf of Mexico during a training session. According to Boeing, in order to avoid destroying the jet fighter costing multi-millions of dollars. Boeing rigged the missile and fitted the QF-16 with sensors to determine if the test were successful. Boeing has now modified six F-16 and renamed them QF-16.

The first test over the Gulf of Mexico

The world spends 26 Billion USD on Drones

The QF-16s can be used for multiple operations, such as pilot training, testing air battle strategies and drone targeting. These jets will prove to be a much better replacement for the QF-4s that were earlier used in the army as target drones. These QF16 will act as highly sustainable pieces of equipment that will take the military to the next generation. The U.S. military has spent more than $26 billion on drones from 2001 to 2012, and in 2013 worldwide spending on UAV research and development rose to $6.6 billion.

The pilotless QF-16

Electronic Interception calls for counteractive measures

I am not a pessimist, on the contrary, I am pretty optimistic about future technology, in fact, I am addicted to technology, yet I sense some danger in the UAV technology, especially when these drones are usually under real-time human control from remote terminal centers. I just hope that they don’t get ahead of themselves without counteractive measure. Can you imagine if a 15-year-old boy was able to hack into NASA and the Pentagon in 1983? And only recently there was news of Iranian-backed insurgent tapping into the video feed from a US drone using a software program called the SkyGrabber that is available online for 25.95 USD. Does it not leave the possibility of some young hackers with programming knowledge to hack a military drone, it is not out of the question. I guess that the American military is aware of these vulnerabilities, and they are on the race to build sophisticated counteractive programs.

UAV Control Center

Nevertheless, unmanned military tactical fighters are here to stay, let’s just hope that the counteractive measures are put into place before the next tech generation will treat it as a toy. Imagine if your two year old can program your Smart TV, what are they going to be like in the next 20 years.


Boeing – QF-16 Unmanned Autonomous Aerial Target Testing
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