USA — An Air Force QF-4 drone from Holloman Air Force Base crashed about 6 miles south of the town of Hope in northwestern Eddy County about 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, but the pilot ejected safely.
The QF-4, which can be flown remotely or piloted, is a modified Vietnam-era F-4 Phantom fighter jet used as a target for air-to-air weapons systems and for nonlethal tests of weapons and tracking systems, according to Air Force officials.
The pilot, whom Air Force officials declined to identify, was in good condition at Gerald Champion Regional Medical Center in Alamogordo, Holloman spokesman Arlan Ponder said Wednesday afternoon.
The cause of the crash was not known Wednesday, and a board of officers will investigate the crash, Ponder said.
The crash occurred in grasslands southwest of Artesia and sparked a wildfire that burned until midafternoon and consumed upward of 100 acres, said Artesia Fire Chief J.D. Hummingbird.
The crashed QF-4, which carried no munitions, was assigned to Holloman’s Detachment 1, 82nd Aerial Target Squadron. The detachment, which flies both remote-controlled and piloted versions of the QF-4, generally has about 10 of the aircraft assigned to it.
Only two U.S. bases fly QF-4s – Holloman and Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla.
Ponder said Wednesday’s crash was Holloman’s first by a manned aircraft since an F-117A Nighthawk, the world’s first stealth fighter, went down in May 1995.
The last QF-4 crash at Holloman was in June 2006, which occurred on a runway during takeoff.