Existing drone aircraft are useful for many things, but they make for lousy target practice when you’re testing missiles; they’re rarely as maneuverable as modern fighter jets.
Boeing and one of its customers have just shown that there’s a better way, however, by firing a surface-to-air missile at a remote-controlled QF-16. As you’ll see in the video below, the unmanned aircraft is much nimbler than either a purpose-built vehicle or an aging conversion like the QF-4, and gives weapons a real workout.
It even managed to dodge the projectile, although you can’t really say that the shooters missed. The missile was tuned to avoid hitting its target – sensors on both the missile and QF-16 confirmed that the weapon was on track without having to blow up expensive equipment.
It’ll be a while longer before the airplane is regularly serving as an aerial punching bag, but this test proves that it’s up to the job.