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On a clear September morning, a vigilant Texas hero came home to rest on a pedestal of honor.
A retired F-16 was placed on display after serving as the test bed for development of the QF-16 Aerial Target program, whose prime contractor is Boeing's Maintenance, Modifications & Upgrades (MM&U) unit. One thing that makes this particular aircraft significant is that it’s a fighter jet not originally manufactured by Boeing. In addition, the aircraft -- officially called F-16C Block 25 Tail 84-393 -- was flown during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Boeing Defense, Space & Security joined the Texas Air National Guard at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas, to dedicate the static display commemorating the service of Texans during the Cold War and the Global War on Terror.
"We dedicate this to that day, 9-11-2001. If you remember that day, the 147th Air Fighter Wing [Texas Air National Guard] was called to action and one of our planes actually joined up with Air Force One."
"I want to thank The Boeing Company for this donation today,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. John Nichols, adjutant general of the Texas National Guard. “This is not just a dream come true but an idea that got traction and came true."
Nichols told about 200 people assembled for the ceremony -- including National Guard members and several general officers -- that the monument is a reminder of the service to the nation by pilots and ground crews, particularly the events that followed the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
"We dedicate this to that day, 9-11-2001," Nichols continued. "If you remember that day, the 147th Air Fighter Wing [Texas Air National Guard] was called to action and one of our planes actually joined up with Air Force One."
Torbjorn Sjogren, vice president of the Global Maintenance & Upgrades subdivision, thanked the Texas Air National Guard for loaning the F-16 to Boeing so that engineers could launch the QF-16 program.
"Several years ago, this jet was retired, but even after Tail 84-393 was retired, it served this nation one last time," Sjogren told the audience. "In 2010, Boeing received permission from the Texas Air National Guard to temporarily relocate the jet to St. Louis from Houston."
He said that Boeing engineers studied the plane, X-rayed it and even placed it on a pole to test an antenna array to prepare for initial production of the aerial targets, scheduled for later this year at Cecil Field in Jacksonville, Fla. When deployment begins in 2014, the QF-16 will replace the depleted QF-4 fleet.
The QF-16 will be used as aerial targets for newly developed weapons and tactics. It will be equipped to evaluate how U.S. fighters and weapons would operate against potential adversaries.
"The men and women of Boeing are honored to dedicate F-16C Block 25 Tail 84-393 as a permanent display to honor the service of many thousands of members of the Texas Air National Guard," Sjogren said. "Thanks for your service to this nation."