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QF-16 reaches operational capability milestone

EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. (AFNS) -- Air Combat Command declared initial operational capability for the QF-16 full-scale aerial target (FSAT) Sept. 23.

The decision was approved by Gen. Hawk Carlisle, the ACC commander, for the total of 15 QF-16s currently available for target operations. The jets are assigned to Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, and flown by the 82nd Aerial Target Squadron under the 53rd Wing.

The 82nd ATRS operates the only FSAT capability in the Defense Department. In accordance with U.S. law, Title 10, Section 2366 of the U.S. Code, a missile system must undergo lethality testing before it can enter full-scale production. The 82nd ATRS maintains DOD’s sole capability to execute the Title 10 requirement through the FSAT program.

The QF-16 is the introduction of fourth-generation fighter capabilities in the aerial target mission. It maintains all inherent capabilities of the baseline F-16 Fighting Falcon including supersonic flight and 9 G maneuverability.

"This leap forward in airframe capabilities, combined with advanced electronic pods, will allow us to properly test and evaluate our fifth-generation aircraft and weapons," said Lt. Col. Matthew Garrison, the 82nd ATRS commander.

The newest aerial target will replace the QF-4 Aerial Target, which flew its last unmanned mission Aug. 17 at Holloman AFB, New Mexico. The QF-4 will officially be retired in December.

The 82nd ATRS is a geographically separated unit of the 53rd WG headquartered at Eglin AFB.