QF-100 Drone

Last revised January 30, 2010






Numerous outdated F-100Ds were modified as pilotless drones to give Air Force pilots and Army ground-to-air missile crews experience against realistic targets. These aircraft were redesignated QF-100.

In August of 1979, a contract was awarded to Sperry Flight Systems for the conversion of 9 QF-100 drones. Two were YQF-100 development aircraft with added cockpit controls so that they could be flown by pilots for system evaluation. Three were built to standard USAF target configuration, three were built to Army requirements, and one was a two-seat version. The eight F-100Ds converted to QF-100 configuration had the serial numbers 55-3610, 55-3669, 56-2912, 56-2978, 56-2979, 56-3048, 56-3324, and 56-3414. The single F-100F that was converted had the serial number of 56-3984.

Following these tests, a total of 209 QF-100 conversions were made by Tracor/Flight Systems Division from F-100s that had been preserved at the Davis-Monthan AFB in Arizona. These conversions were painted bright red-orange and had a few extra blade antennas for the transmission and reception of radio signals from the remote-controllers on the ground. The last QF-100 conversion by Sperry took place in April of 1985, but FSI was still carrying out QF-100 conversions at their Mojave, CA facilty for several more years thereafter.

The takeoff of the QF-100 drone was directed by two ground-based controllers positioned at the end of the runway. Once airborne, the drone was handed off to a third controller sitting in a fixed-base ground station. A dual redundant system was used to get the drone to the mission area and to select the maneuvers. The maneuvers were pre-programmed into on-board computers. If the drone survived the mission, it was flown back to the handover point, where the two controllers at the end of the runway brought it back in for a landing.

The first unpiloted flight of a QF-100 took place on November 19, 1981 from Tyndall AFB in Florida. Recently, the QF-100 has been used as a target in the AMRAAM (Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile) program. The first AMRAAM kill against a QF-100 took place on September 17, 1985. The lifetime of a typical drone was about ten flights before it was destroyed.

Sources:

  1. North American F-100 Super Sabre, David A. Anderton, Osprey, 1987

  2. The North American F-100 Super Sabre, Ray Wagner, Aircraft in Profile, 1965.

  3. United States Military Aircraft Since 1909, Gordon Swanborough and Peter M. Bowers, Smithsonian, 1989.

  4. The American Fighter, Enzo Angelucci and Peter Bowers, Orion, 1987.

  5. Fighters of the United States Air Force, Robert F. Dorr and David Donald, Temple Press Aerospace, 1990.

  6. Post-World War II Fighters, 1945-1973, Marcelle Size Knaack, Office of Air Force History, 1986.

  7. E-mail from Charles Friend on conversions to QF-100 continuing past April of 1985.