QF-16 Air Superiority Target (AST) Specifications

The USAF plans to convert older-model F-16s into full-scale target drones under the QF-16 Air Superiority Target (AST) program. These AST drones are used in Weapon System Evaluation Programs (WSEP) for assessing upgrades or replacements for air-to-air missiles (AAM), and they are also useful for giving pilots the experience of a live AAM shot and kill prior to entering combat. QF-16s would replace the current QF-4 drones, the last of which are expected to be expended around 2015.

QF-16 Air Superiority Target (AST)
RoleFull-scale target drone
National originUnited States
Primary usersUSAF, US Navy
ManufacturerBoeing
First flight19 September 2013
Introduction18 November 2014
StatusUnder Development
Number built126 (proposed)
Program cost$70 million
Unit costUnknown
Length49 ft 5 in (15.1 m)
Wingspan31 ft 0 in (9.45 m)
Height16 ft 8 in (5.08 m)
Wing area
Empty weight18,900 lb (8,570 kg)
Maximum payload
Maximum takeoff weight42,300 lb (19,200 kg)
PowerplantGeneral Electric F110-GE-100 engine
Fuel
Maximum speedMach 1.47 or 1,119mph/1,800km/
Ferry range
Combat radius295 nmi (546 km)
Service ceiling40,000ft
Rate of climb
Thrust/weight28,600 lbf (127 kN)
GunsRemoved
Air to ground loadout
HardpointsRemoved

When the F-16s arrive at Boeing’s facility, they are stripped down to remove unneeded parts, including the fighter’s Vulcan six-barrel 20mm cannon and the APG-66/68 radar. Because the USAF requires that the QF-16 be able to fly in both manned and unmanned modes, Boeing will modify the flight control system, working in a teaming arrangement with BAE, the original equipment manufacturer for the F-16 flight control system.

QF-16_Air_Superiority_Target_(AST)

QF-16

Taiwan’s Lost Decade
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    Perhaps F-16s could better be utilized by selling them to foreign countries and then using the money received to built specialized target drones that would suit Air Force’s requirements more directly? Interesting development nevertheless, maybe the F-16 will never die!

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