82d Aerial Targets Squadron

82d Aerial Targets Squadron

The 82d Aerial Target Squadron is located at Tyndall AFB. This squadron is the only unit left in the USAF to fly the F-4 Phantom II, although they are QF-4C/E/G versions in the role of aerial targets. The 82 ATRS has a Detachment at Holloman AFB to fly QF-4s in support of DoD testing in the White Sands Missile Range Complex

The squadron also maintains three 120-foot drone recovery vessels and two smaller vessels to recover aerial targets and support range safety, patrol, and salvage operations. Squadron members also operate the Air Force’s only two E-9A nicknamed "Widget", the commercial version is called the de Havilland Canada DHC-8, or Dash 8.


This squadron was originally designated the 82d Fighter Squadron, and as part of the 78th Fighter Group was stationed in the United Kingdom during World War II.

The 82d Fighter Interceptor Squadron was a fighter squadron based at Travis Air Force Base, California until 1966, when it was deployed to Naha Air Base, Okinawa. The prime aircraft of the squadron was the F-102 Delta Dagger, or "Deuce", which was the more common nickname. In January 1968, the 82d was scrambled to South Korea in response to the Pueblo Incident, where North Korea had seized the USS Pueblo. By late 1968, most of the unit had been deactivated.

On 1 July 1981 the 82d Tactical Aerial Target Squadron was assigned to the 325th Fighter Weapons Wing. On 15 October 1983 the 82d Tactical Aerial Target Squadron was transferred to the 475th Weapons Evaluation Group . It is now part of the 53d Weapons Evaluation Group.

The 82d Aerial Targets Squadron is very unusual by the type of aircraft it operates. This squadron is the only unit left in the USAF to fly the venerable F-4 Phantom II reduced to the role of aerial targets. Located at Tyndall AFB, Fla., the 82 ATRS is a subordinate of the 53d Weapons Evaluation Group assigned to Air Combat Command's 53d Wing at Eglin AFB, Fla. The 53 WEG is responsible for conducting the USAF Air-to-Air Weapons System Evaluation Program known as Combat Archer from Tyndall AFB and the Air-to-Ground version known as Combat Hammer from Eglin AFB. Both bases located at short distances from each other in the Florida panhandle. During these exercises, the 82d provides drone targets such as the QF-4 in the Full Scale Aerial Target (FSAT) role next to the MQM-107 Streaker and BQM-34 Firebee as Sub-Scale Aerial Targets (SSAT). To perform surveillance and gather telemetry data during shooting over the Gulf of Mexico, the units uses the only two E-9A in the USAF inventory. The E-9A is a special version of the civilian DASH-8 specially equipped with a large phased-array antenna on the right side of the fuselage. The E-9A can record all data onboard and can retransmit it in real time to the ground control station. Also called "Tyndall Navy" is the Watercraft Branch of the 82 ATRS. It comprises three 120 ft drone recovery vessels designated MR-120 and two smaller vessels. These vessels are used for providing direct sea support to recover aerial targets like the MQM-107 and BQM-34, range safety patrols and salvage operations [ [http://www.tyndall.af.mil/shared/media/document/AFD-071105-012.pdf EIA - FY2003 ] ] . The 82 ATRS also has a Detachment at Holloman AFB which is responsible for FSAT operations at the White Sands Missile Range near Holloman AFB, NM.

Modifications to the airframe and installation of major systems to transform the F-4 takes about four months. This includes installation of the primary and back-up Automatic Flight Control System, Command/Telemetry System, VDOPS Scoring System, Flight Termination System, Visual Enhancement System and Ancillary Subsystems.

There are two kinds of QF-4s. The first is NULLO Full-scale Aerial Targets which keep the above basic drone conversions. For the 82d, NULLO means Not Under Live Local Operation. A NULLO flight always requires at least three drones, the ones to be shot down, a spare and a manned QF-4 flying as chase plane. The second one is the manned full-scale drones fitted with advanced countermeasure systems installed by the USAF. While some of the twin-stick QF-4s retain their dual control system as trainer and both ejection seats in working orders, the other manned QF-4s have the rear cockpit ejection seat removed. All NULLO aircraft have both ejection seats removed. Noticeable differences between the twos are the six antennas from the VDOPS scoring system, the hump on top of the fuselage, a crude box on the left intake and a fairing in the left forward Sparrow well.


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