F-16 downs drone during cruise missile defense testing

The 85th Test and Evaluation Squadron shot down a subscale drone using an AGR-20A Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System laser-guided rocket Dec. 19, providing a proof of concept for using rockets queued from an F-16 Fighting Falcon targeting pod as viable munitions to perform cruise missile defense.

“The test was unprecedented and will shape the future of how the Air Force executes CMD,” said Col. Ryan Messer, 53rd Wing commander. “This is a prime example of how the 53rd Wing is using resources readily available to establish innovative ways that enhance combat capabilities for our combat units.”

Originally, the AGR-20A was developed as a low cost, low collateral damage air-to-ground weapon for use in Afghanistan and Iraq; adapting the system for counter-air use is momentous. The AGR-20A is a fraction of the cost of the AIM-120 missile, commonly used for cruise missile defense. Additionally, the AGR-20A can be loaded faster than an AIM-120 and an aircraft can carry two-to-three times the number weapons.

This directly supports the National Defense Strategy priority of reform for greater performance and affordability.

Finding a more cost-efficient CMD weapon was second out of 76 tactics improvement proposals following the January 2019 Weapons and Tactics Conference known as WEPTAC. The 85th TES planned and conducted the test with support across the Air Force and contract partners ensuring efficacy and potential prior to execution.

“This proof of concept can have implications for homeland defense missions, combined defense of the Arabian Gulf and beyond,” Messer said. “I am exceptionally proud of the efforts of the 85th TES and the units across the 53rd Wing that made this possible.”

The 85th TES is part of the 53rd Wing, which is the primary operational test and evaluation wing for the U.S. Air Force. The wing provides tactical advantage to the warfighter at the speed of relevance. By testing new operational capabilities, evaluating fielded capabilities and optimizing electronic warfare capabilities, the 53rd Wing is bringing the future faster while answering the warfighter’s demands for integrated, multi-domain capabilities.

A group of F-16 Fighting Falcons from the 85th Test and Evaluation Squadron and the 40th Flight Test Squadron return to Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., after a successful test mission Dec. 19, 2019. This test successfully demonstrated shooting down a small drone at low altitudes. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. John Raven)

/U.S. Air Force Release. View in full here.