Could Modified QF-16s Jet Fighters Really Jam the F-35’s Radar?

The JOTT at Edwards is part of a joint enterprise that conducts operational test and evaluation of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF).

Three QF-16 jets deployed to Edwards Air Force Base (AFB) recently to aid the F-35 Joint Operational Test Team (JOTT) with test planning.

As told by Kenji Thuloweit, 412th Test Wing Public Affairs, in the article QF-16s help F-35 JOTT plan for future testing, the QF-16 is a full-scale aerial target that has been modified to be flown with a pilot in the cockpit for training and also without a pilot as a target for live missile testing. These aircraft belong to 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron (ATS) from Tyndall AFB, Florida, and Holloman AFB, New Mexico.

According to the 82nd ATRS the QF-16 is a fourth-generation fighter that maintains all inherent capabilities of the baseline F-16 Fighting Falcon including supersonic flight and 9-G maneuverability.

Thanks to these capabilities the QF-16 is able to help test fifth-generation fighters like the F-35 Lightning II against aerial adversaries and targets.

“We’re preparing for initial operational test and evaluation that starts next year,” explained Matt Feringa, F-35 JOTT senior tactical systems analyst. “Part of the QF-16’s mission is to carry airborne radar jamming pods. We flew F-35s with them as part of our test design development and to preliminarily evaluate the F-35 against those jamming pods.”

The JOTT at Edwards is part of a joint enterprise that conducts operational test and evaluation of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF). The unit in fact not only consists of all U.S. services that will operate the different F-35 variants, but coalition partners such as the U.K. and the Netherlands who will also operate the JSF.

The QF-16s stayed at Edwards for two weeks and provided good data that allowed JOTT to move ahead with their test plans. For the JOTT test purposes, the QF-16s were flown by pilots from the 82nd ATRS.

The QF-16 allows customers to test weapons systems in real-world scenarios before reaching the battlefield. Initial operational capability (IOC) for the QF-16 full-scale aerial target was declared Sep. 23, 2016. The 82nd ATRS operates the only full-scale aerial target capability in the Defense Department.

The QF-16 replaced the QF-4 Aerial Targets, which were converted F-4 Phantoms. The QF-4 flew its last unmanned mission Aug. 17, 2016 at Holloman AFB and was officially retired in December.

This article by Dario Leone originally appeared on The Aviation Geek Club in 2017.

Image: DVIDShub.

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