BAE Systems has successfully converted its 300th F-4 Phantom fighter jet into an unmanned flying drone for the U.S. Air Force. The achievement is a significant milestone in the 16-year-long QF-4 program, which provides full-scale, remotely controlled aerial targets that the Air Force uses for weapons testing and aircraft training.
The QF-4 work is conducted at BAE Systems’ 123,000-square-foot hangar in Mojave, California. Approximately 100 employees provide a range of services to transform decommissioned F-4s into QF-4s, a complex process that typically takes about six months. Depending on the condition of the F-4s, the services may include systems engineering and integration; electrical, mechanical, and software engineering; and various types of structural alterations.
“Our proven performance on this program exemplifies our global capabilities to upgrade and modify aircraft,” said Gordon Eldridge, vice president and general manager of Aerospace Solutions at BAE Systems. “We have been the sole provider of QF-4s for the Air Force since 1996. Congratulations to the entire Mojave team, which now has more than 35 years of combined experience and a solid track record of success.”
There are 14 more QF-4s scheduled for delivery by the middle of 2013. After each conversion is complete, the aircraft is flown to Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida and other training sites, where it is used primarily for target practice.
In addition to the QF-4 program, BAE Systems offers military customers around the world a range of services for aircraft upgrades and modifications, including for F-16 fighters and C-130 transports. These services include state-of-the-art avionics and electronics upgrades, as well as heavy maintenance support and structural modification programs.