Boeing has successfully completed the first QF-16 full scale aerial target (FSAT) manned flight for the US Air Force (USAF) at Cecil Field in Jacksonville, Florida, US.
Boeing Global Maintenance and Upgrades vice president, Torbjorn Sjogren, said: "With this successful first flight of the QF-16, the USAF, Boeing and our supplier-partners have laid the groundwork for the programme to enter low-rate production in 2013 and make its first production delivery in 2014."
During the 66-minute flight, the QF-16 aircraft climbed to an altitude of 41,000ft and demonstrated the basic performance of the newly installed modification package.
The QF-16 modification package enables it to fly in an unmanned mode under the control of a ground-based control system, such as the Gulf Range Drone Control System (GRDCS) at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, US or the Drone Formation Control System (DFCS) at White Sands Missile Range (WSMR), New Mexico, US.
A GRDCS mobile trailer with portable transmission towers provided communications between the flight controller, personnel on the ground and the QF-16 pilot, during the trails.
The USAF had awarded a $69.7m contract to Boeing in March 2010 to begin the first phase of the QF-16 programme with options to procure up to 126 FSATs by 2014.
In the first phase, Boeing, together with BAE Systems, will begin engineering, manufacturing and development of the full-scale manned and unmanned QF-16 aircraft.
The USAF will receive six QF-16 test aircraft for additional testing over the Gulf Range from Boeing in October 2012.
Boeing will support government flight testing from Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, US, following the completion of additional testing over the WSMR complex.
Image: Boeing conducts first manned flight of QF-16 full scale aerial target (FSAT). Photo: courtesy of The Boeing Company.