Boeing has tinkered with an F-16 fighter jet and transformed it into a UAV with more capabilities than it would have with a human pilot at the controls. The adapted Lockhart-Martin aircraft, which hadn’t flown in over a decade, made a solo flight above the Gulf of Mexico, while two pilots controlled its movements from the ground, reaching 7Gs of accelerations.
Two chase planes accompanied the aircraft–now renamed the QF-16, and part of a fleet of six modified jets–on its maiden flight, which went according to plan. “It was a little different to see it without anyone in it, but it was a great flight all the way round,” Lieut. Col Ryan Inman, commander of the Air Force’s 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron, told BBC News. Chief engineer of the project, Paul Cejas, said the plane made “probably one of the best landings I’ve ever seen.”
Should the QF-16 have gone rogue, the controllers had a button enabling them to destroy the jet before it could either cause any harm or fall into the wrong hands. The drone, which can only take off from land, as it is too heavy to work on an aircraft carrier, will now be tested by the U.S. military in order to carry out some live-fire tests.