The US Air Force has converted a part of its F-16 fighter fleet into a new version called QF-16.
These are remotely operated fighters, which in essence became drones for various tests and training. As reported by Military Watch Magazine, the Pentagon plans to continue this modification with the rest of the F-16 fighter fleet.
The QF-16s could be used to test different air defense systems and are good platforms to push the capabilities of American pilots to the limit. This is due to the fact that unlike their human-piloted opponents, laden with weapons and fuel to land, these fighters have increased manoeuvrability thanks to reduced weight.
Thus, it is expected that the flight performance of the Russian Su-30SM fighters and the Chinese J-10B fighters can be simulated, the source highlights. A similar program was carried out in the past with F-4 Phantom fighters from the time of the Vietnam War.
However, being considerably more advanced in terms of avionics and electronics, F-16s are easier to convert to drones. The medium indicates that the emergence of the QF-16 could be an indication of the age of this model.
The manufacturing of this light fighter started in the mid-70s and is one of the most produced in the world with more than 4,500 units that left the plant.
It even has top-notch performance today, but the US Air Force is already stocking up on its replacement – the fifth-generation F-35A fighter. With this, the North American country continues to offer its allies the F-16V fighters that basically have the structure of the original aircraft with modern electronics and equipment.
Even though it is not the last generation aircraft, its capabilities are still sufficient against soft targets, such as insurgents from the Middle East and Central Asia.
In addition, its low maintenance costs and flight hours make it an attractive option for countries with smaller budgets.