The mission for the QF-4 targeting drone is over, with the last of the converted F-4 Phantom IIs destroyed over the Gulf of Mexico.
Since 1997, the Air Force has flown 315 QF-4 drones as targets for training and weapons testing. On Wednesday, the 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron operated the last of the fleet on a training mission out of Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida. The jet was destroyed during a live weapons testing flight, according to base public affairs.
The Air Force's new fleet of QF-16s, converted Fighting Falcons, will now take over the unmanned targeting drone role. The aircraft, converted block 15, 20 and 30 variants of the F-16, first began unmanned test flights in 2013, with the first production model arriving at the Florida base in March 2015. The service expects to field 210 of the converted jets.
QF-4s, and QF-16s, are outfitted with electronic and infrared countermeasures to fully mimic an adversarial aircraft in training, according to the Air Force. The aircraft are outfitted with explosive devices to destroy them over a designated area of the sea, should they become uncontrollable during targeting missions. A pilot operates the aircraft from a ground station, and the drone it is followed by a trailing aircraft.