What It Takes to Turn a Vintage F-16 Into a Drone
The US Air Force is resurrecting old fighter jets from a boneyard in Arizona as moving targets for live-fire exercises in the Gulf of Mexico.
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November 19, 2019 - by Laura Mallonee for wired.com
When the US Air Force launched the F-16 Fighting Falcon in 1979, it had something no other military jet did: a computer. Four, actually.
Their electrical signals commanded the aircraft instead of gears and pulleys, ushering aerial combat into the digital era. Now, after fighting in the Gulf and Iraq wars, some of these 49-foot supersonic jets are speeding toward an autonomous future.
Believe it or not—we don't blame you for thinking the buttons in this cockpit couldn't belong to a droid—they've been retooled and given (short) new lives as drones.
Colonel Steven Boatright, commander of the Weapons Evaluation Group at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, who's flown Falcons for 25 years, says F-16s are perfect for dronification, because their computer systems make them easy to modify.
The Air Force began converting the craft into QF-16s (the Q designating drones) in 2010.
This year, up to 32 will fly over the Gulf...
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