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Drone Crashes and Explodes Near Florida Base, Shuts Down Highway

By Clyde Hughes   |   Wednesday, 17 Jul 2013 04:34 PM

A full-sized unmanned drone crashed during takeoff from Tyndall Air Force Base, 12 miles east of Panama City, Fla., Wednesday morning, a local news station reported.

WJHG-TV reports that a QF-4 drone crashed and landed near Highway 98. Witnesses told the television station that the drone exploded after the crash. The air base reported to the WJHG that no one was injured in the crash but the highway may be closed for the next 24 hours, diverting traffic from Panama City to Mexico Beach.

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The television station reported that another QF-4 drone self-destructed just a week ago over the Gulf of Mexico on July 10.

Unlike the unmanned drones that currently fly over enemy military territories in the Middle East and elsewhere, the QF-4 drones are reusable, full-scale target drones modified from the F-4 Phantom, according to the Air Force.

The QF-4 provides a realistic full-scale target for air-to-air weapons system evaluation. They are tested at Tyndall and the Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico. The QF-4 is remotely controlled and can simulate enemy aircraft maneuvers. It's equipped with an explosive device which self detonates if it loses control.

According to Air and Space magazine, the F-4 Phantoms, which had been in service since 1960 by the Navy, were retired in 1996 from the U.S. fleet. In 1991, 254 Phantoms were modified into the unmanned targets for missile and gun tests conducted at Tyndall and Holloman.

The magazine said the QF-4s are expected to remain in use until next year.

Tyndall Air Force Base, a popular tourist destination, is the home to the 325th Fighter Wing, 1st Air Force, 53rd Weapons Evaluation Group and the 601st Air Operations Center, according to Military.com. The base was first established in 1941, the website said.

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