Report by: Thierry Letellier
In october , we were able to make a visit to the 82 ARTS at Tyndall AFB. it was certainly for us the very last occasion to see in operationnal conditions the vénéralbe QF-4. The official retirement from this squadron is expected in summer 2016. At this time the sole QF-16 will be used in the FSAT rule. The 53rd WEG is responsible for conducting the Air-to-Air Weapons System Evaluation, with the 82nd ATRS providing QF-4 and other drone targets in the Full Scale Aerial Target (FSAT) role.
Next to the QF-4 / QF-16 are used the MQM-107 Streaker and BQM-34 Firebee as Sub-Scale Aerial Targets (SSAT) . The aerial target fleet is operated and maintained by the 82d Aerial Targets Squadron, located at Tyndall AFB. The squadron is a subordinate unit of the 53rd Weapons Evaluation Group at Tyndall AFB. The 53rd WEG reports to the 53rd Wing at Eglin AFB, Fla. The ‘Tyndall Navy’ is the Watercraft Branch of the 82nd ATRS, who operate three 120ft MR-120 drone recovery vessels, providing direct sea support to recover the MQM-107 and BQM-34 aerial targets, range safety patrols and salvage operations. To perform Sea Surveillance and gather Airborne Telemetry data during shooting over the Gulf of Mexico, the unit operates the only two E-9A Widgets in the USAF inventory.
First flown in May 1958, the Phantom II originally was developed for U.S. Navy fleet defense and entered service in 1961. The Air Force evaluated it as the F-110A Spectre for close air support, interdiction and counter-air operations. In 1962, U.S. Air Force version was approved. The Air Force’s Phantom II was designated F-4C, and first flew May 27, 1963. Production deliveries began in November 1963.The F-4 was the primary fighter-bomber aircraft in the U.S. Air Force throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Phantom II production ended in 1979. The modified F-4 became the QF-4. It is the successor to the QF-106 in the Air Force aerial target inventory.
The QF-4 is a remotely controlled target, which simulates enemy aircraft maneuvers. The drone can be flown by remote control or with a safety pilot to monitor its performance. Full-scale drone aircraft can be flown totally by computer using the Gulf Range Drone Control System, or controlled manually during takeoff and landing using a mobile control station located at the drone runway. The QF-4 is equipped to carry electronic and infrared countermeasures to fully evaluate fighters and weapons flown and fired against it. As a safety precaution, a chase plane trails the drone during critical periods of flight. When flown unmanned, an explosive device is placed in the QF-4 to destroy the aircraft if it inadvertently becomes uncontrollable. The QF-4 program reached initial operational capability in 1997.
The author would like to thank the UNITED STATES AIRFORCE for the opportunity to visit TYNDALL AFB and particurlarly all the poeple, Military and Civilians; from the 82 ARTS for their great professionalism and their sense of hospitality.