82nd ATRS Detachment 1 trains using QF-16 Vipers at Holloman

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Isaiah Pedrazzini
  • 49th Wing
On clear and sunny days, the orange-winged QF-16 Vipers can be seen soaring through the sky… sometimes on their way to be shot down during an exercise.

Det 1, is a detachment from the 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, who provide QF-16 Vipers as aerial targets for their customers.

“Our customers range from the Army, Navy, Air Force and foreign military sales organizations that want to test their weapons against a threat representative full-scale target,” said James Schreiner, 82nd ATRS Detachment 1 QF-16 pilot. “What we do is support a mission where a customer is going to engage us with their missiles to demonstrate their capabilities.”

The QF-16s themselves are typically retired F-16s from the “Boneyard” at Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona and are re-engineered to accommodate both manned and unmanned flight maneuvering.

These Vipers are also used by the 82nd ATRS in training exercises with the 54th fighter Group as mock adversaries for student pilots.

“Whenever we’re not shooting at it with a live missile, we practice the maneuvers needed for a live missile test,” said Schreiner. “If something were to happen in the air it's much easier for the pilot in the airplane to take control of the aircraft and safely recover it.”

While the detachment is located at Holloman, their testing is primarily conducted in collaboration with the U.S. Army over the White Sands Missile Range.

“We test over the White Sands Missile Range, because it is a large unpopulated land area which allows weapons testing without worrying about hurting somebody on the ground,” said Schreiner. “There’s also a company unit at WSMR that is tasked with taking the wreckage off the range and recycling it for other projects.”

With more than 500 years of maintenance experience and 116 years of flying experience among the staff, U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. John Harris, 82nd ATRS Detachment 1 commander, is confident in the future of Air Force pilots and airpower at Holloman.

“My team has a lot of experience to lean on, which is nice as a commander,” said Harris. “We receive great support from the 49th Wing, and that relationship is critical for us to operate.”