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The Return of Quick Draw Marks the End of QF-4 Phantom Program

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Ed Staton
  • AFNORTH Public Affairs
The scrambling of Continental United States North American Aerospace Defense Command Region (CONR) air defense assets on Wednesday, May 27, 2015 marked the first time in nearly a decade that a QUICK DRAW exercise had been conducted. QUICK DRAW was originally conducted during the 1980s and 1990s in an effort to verify the readiness of air defense alert aircraft and weapons systems.  At random times, alert aircraft would be scrambled to the Gulf Ranges and participate in live missile firings against unmanned aerial targets known as drones.  CONR is reviving this exercise with an extended purpose: validation of readiness, command and control and techniques.  The event was coordinated through close cooperation with Air Combat Command's 53d WEG and resulted with the engagement and shooting down of the last two Tyndall based QF-4 drones over the Gulf of Mexico. 

The exercise included the scrambling of air defense fighters from one of CONR's alert sites.  The fighters refueled from an alert tanker, also scrambled for the exercise.  After refueling, the fighters entered the Gulf Range airspace where units belonging to the 53d Weapons Evaluation Group took control and orchestrated the live fire against the unmanned aerial targets. 

According to the Director of Operations at CONR, Col Al Wimmer, a live fire mission against a live target is as close as we can get to live operations. 

"There is no better way to validate readiness than to fully exercise the entire system in an exercise like this," said Wimmer.  "Together with our partners at the Air-To-Air Weapons System Evaluation Program (WSEP) we have greatly advanced."

The return of QUICK DRAW is highlighted by another historic moment, the final mission of the QF-4 as an aerial target over the Gulf Ranges.  QF-4s will continue to serve at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico for another 1-2 years before being completely retired.  The QF-4 is being replaced by the QF-16. The final missions involving a QF-4 drone are marking the end of the Phantom's service. The aircraft was first flown in 1958 and was extensively used in Vietnam.