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Unmanned QF-16 and Navy F-18s face off

An unmanned QF-16 Full Scale Aerial Target from the 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron lands on an auxiliary runway at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., Sept. 29, 2016. The QF-16 is used by the 53rd Weapons Evaluation Group for unmanned aerial target training programs and data collection for the testing of weapon systems. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Javier Cruz/Released)

An unmanned QF-16 Full Scale Aerial Target from the 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron lands on an auxiliary runway at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., Sept. 29, 2016. The QF-16 is used by the 53rd Weapons Evaluation Group for unmanned aerial target training programs and data collection for the testing of weapon systems. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Javier Cruz/Released)

An unmanned QF-16 Full Scale Aerial Target from the 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron is illuminated by the rising sun at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., Sept. 29, 2016. The QF-16 unmanned aerial targets program is operated through the 53rd Weapons Evaluation Group on Tyndall Air Force Base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Javier Cruz/Released)

An unmanned QF-16 Full Scale Aerial Target from the 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron is illuminated by the rising sun at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., Sept. 29, 2016. The QF-16 unmanned aerial targets program is operated through the 53rd Weapons Evaluation Group on Tyndall Air Force Base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Javier Cruz/Released)

TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- QF-16s assigned to the 82nd Aerial Target Squadron supported weapons testing Sept. 29 for Navy F-18s here.

 

The F-18s conducted Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile tests and used the QF-16s as “target practice.”

 

The 11 unmanned jets at Tyndall are controlled by the 82nd ATRS, which operates the only full-scale aerial target program in the Department of Defense. They conduct training and test missions for the Air Force, sister services and international partners.

 

Air Combat Command declared initial operational capability for the QF-16 Sept. 23.

 

“We have now proven we can generate, launch, operate and recover QF-16 targets,” said Lt. Col. Matthew Garrison, 82nd ATRS commander. “We are already full steam ahead in supporting back-to-back target missions with the Navy F-18s and new software for the F-16s.

 

According to Garrison, the missiles are not armed, but instead loaded with telemetry packages to track its exact movement on the ground. In this case, striking the actual QF-16 isn’t always necessary to determine if the inert missile was on target. This can save the lifespan of the QF-16 for future missions.

 

“Knowing exactly what the missile is doing is what we’re really concerned about,” said Garrison. “We’ll track the profile it flies, as well as other critical data, then sometimes save the target from an actual hit.”

 

The 82nd ATRS is a geographically separated unit under the 53rd Wing headquartered at Eglin Air Force Base.