Video: Boeing tests pilotless F-16 fighter jet

Retrofitted fighter will be used for 'weapons testing and other aerial training'

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The Independent Tech

For the first time ever an F-16 fighter has flown without a pilot. The aircraft was retrofitted by Boeing engineers and controlled by a pair of US Air Force pilots from the ground.

Boeing has suggested that such aircraft could be used to test pilots, providing them with an adversary that prepares them for combat "like never before".

“It’s a replication of current, real world situations and aircraft platforms they can shoot as a target," said US Air Force Lt. Col. Ryan Inman, Commander, 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron. "It was a little different to see it without anyone in it, but it was a great flight all the way around."

The jet flew at a speed of Mach 1.47 (1,119mph/1,800km/h) and an altitude of altitude of 40,000ft (12.2km).

It performed a number of aerial maneuvers including a barrel roll at seven Gs of acceleration and a 'split S' - a move where the pilot half-rolls and inverts the aircraft to quickly turn around and fly in the opposite direction.

Six aircraft have been retrofitted and re-designated as 'QF-16 Full Scale Aerial Targets' by Boeing. The craft had all been retired after combat duty and were retrieved from the Davis Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona. The first F-16 to be tested with this process had previously been in storage for 15 years.