The F-16 was one of the iconic fighter jets of the twentieth century, but, like all military hardware, it was eventually replaced by something else and retired to a stately desert to quietly rust away. At least until Boeing decided they could totally turn them into awesome robots.

F-16 Unmanned

First of all, we just want to tell you that this thing was fitted with a self-destruct button. Think about that, for a second. It’s for security purposes, obviously, but Boeing couldn’t have made this more ’80s if they were trying.

Secondly, it was controlled by two pilots on the ground and not only did a series of combat maneuvers, it stuck a perfect, straight-line landing. This essentially means that this pilot-free fighter jet can fly and react just like it’s got somebody in the seat.

So Why Bring The Jets Back?

Two reasons; one, obviously fitting out an old jet with some cameras and servos is a lot cheaper than building something like this from the ground up. But the second reason is more compelling.

Human-piloted fighter jets are limited by the pilot; these planes go so fast and can turn so quickly, they can kill a human being with sheer g-force. So these jets were never pushed to their limits.

That Said, They Exist But To Die


Sadly, though, the ’80s movie comparisons end there. These are not being taken out of mothballs for one last mission; they’re being commissioned to take off and give modern drones fast, easy-to-use targets for live fire exercises. In other words, the military is building fighter jet robots solely to blow them out of the sky.

On the other hand, it is good that Boeing is developing these technologies, and they might allow older aircraft to still be of use, even if only as a bullet sponge.

Dan Seitz

Dan Seitz is an obsessive nerd living in New England. He lives in the Boston area with a fiancee, a dog, a cat, and far too many objects with processors.