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F-16 fighter converted to drone

Pilotless plane used for target practice

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Kids aspiring to become fighter pilots just had their hopes and dreams crushed that little bit more, after Boeing successfully converted an F-16 Fighting Falcon into a pilot-less aircraft.

The newly-designated QF-16 had been retired by the US Air Force before Boeing acquired it, restored it airworthy condition and rigged it up for remote operations.

The aerospace company has now let it be known that the plane's new systems were pressed into service last week, with considerable success.

“While in the air, the QF-16 mission included a series of simulated maneuvers, reaching supersonic speeds, returning to base and landing, all without a pilot in the cockpit,” the company's canned statement says.

The reincarnated plane will be used as what Boeing is calling an “aerial target” that thanks to the humans behind the remote joystick will be anything but a sitting duck. That's just what's needed when training pilots of piloted aircraft, as a human-controlled adversary is a rather better training aid than a purely robotic adversary.

The test flight featured the first of six QF-16s, all of which are destined for use by the 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron, a part of the 53rd Weapons Evaluation Group . The aircraft will join a considerable fleet of other aerial targets.

Boeing has posted a rather saccharine video of the flight here. ®

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