Local news outlets from the Florida panhandle region reported Wednesday morning that an unmanned aerial vehicle crashed on the drone runway at Tyndall AFB during take-off at 8:20 a.m. EST that morning. Eyewitnesses told WJHG News that the drone “came in hard and fast” before it crashed.
According to the network, Tyndall officials said the drone was carrying a small self-destruct charge and “had to be destroyed for safety considerations during its return to base following a routine operation.”
Following the accident, the UAV reportedly went up in flames and started a ground fire, prompting authorities to close nearby Highway 98. They’ve reported no injuries.
“This closure is being done strictly as a precautionary measure due to fires resulting from the crash and a small self-destruct charge carried on board the drone,” officials from Tyndall said in a statement. “The status of this device is unknown, however it is powered by a short-life battery which will be fully depleted in 24 hours.”
The Air Force described the QF-4 as a supersonic, reusable full-scale target drone modified from the F-4 Phantom and “provides a realistic full-scale target for air-to-air weapons system evaluation, development and testing.” The aircraft measures 63 feet long, 30,328 pounds and has a wingspan of more than 38 feet. Converting each jet to a UAV costs the Air Force an average of $2.6 million.
Only last week, officials at Tyndall ordered another QF-4 to self-destruct over the Gulf of Mexico. “The drone was carrying a small self-destruct charge and had to be destroyed for safety considerations during its return to base following a routine operation,” Tyndall announced at the time.
Late last year, an F-22 Raptor fighter jet crashed near Tyndall AFB, again prompting officials to close down Highway 98. An Air Force pilot safely ejected from the aircraft before the jet crashed a quarter-mile east of the drone runway.