Two US Air Force pilots controlled the plane from the ground as it flew from a Florida base to the Gulf of Mexico. BBC also reported that the jet – which had previously sat mothballed at an Arizona site for 15 years – flew at an altitude of 40,000ft (12.2km) and a speed of Mach 1.47 (1,119mph/1,800km/h), with an empty cockpit.
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It carried out a series of maneuvers, according to the BBC, including a barrel roll and a "split S" – a move in which the aircraft turns upside down before making a half loop so that it flies the right-way-up in the opposite direction. This can be used in combat to evade missile lock-ons.
Boeing said the unmanned F-16 was followed by two chase planes to ensure it stayed in sight, and also contained equipment that would have allowed it to self-destruct if necessary.
"It flew great, everything worked great, (it) made a beautiful landing – probably one of the best landings I've ever seen," said Paul Cejas, the project's chief engineer.
Lt Col Ryan Inman, Commander of the US Air Force's 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron, also had praise for how the test had gone: "It was a little different to see it without anyone in it, but it was a great flight all the way around.
Boeing said that it had a total of six modified F-16s, which have been renamed QF-16s, and that the US military now planned to use some of them in live fire tests.
However, as BBC reported, a spokesman for the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots warned of the temptation to use them in warfare. "I'm very concerned these could be used to target people on the ground," said Prof Noel Sharkey. "I'm particularly worried about the high speed at which they can travel because they might not be able to distinguish their targets very clearly. There is every reason to believe that these so-called 'targets' could become a test bed for drone warfare, moving us closer and closer to automated killing."
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