PORT ST. JOE — A drone aircraft out of Tyndall Air Force Base had to be destroyed, causing it to plunge into the Gulf of Mexico near St. Joseph Peninsula State Park on Wednesday morning, the Gulf County Sheriff’s Office said.


PORT ST. JOE — A drone aircraft out of Tyndall Air Force Base had to be destroyed, causing it to plunge into the Gulf of Mexico near St. Joseph Peninsula State Park on Wednesday morning, the Gulf County Sheriff’s Office said.



GCSO Lt. Paul Beasley said a 911 dispatcher received a call about 10:30 a.m. that a flaming object had plunged into the water just off shore.



“They saw a big flash of fire that landed in the Gulf,” Beasley said.



Tyndall officials said an unmanned Air Force QF-4 drone assigned to the 53rd Weapons Evaluation Group was destroyed over the Gulf of Mexico at 10:28 a.m.



Herman Bell, chief of Tyndall’s 325th Fighter Wing public affairs, said when a drone goes “haywire” the controllers will destroy the craft.



“We blew it,” Bell said. “If it goes outside of it’s safety parameters then we take it down.”



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, Air Force officials said.



The QF-4 is a reusable full-scale target drone modified from the F-4 Phantom aircraft, the Air Force confirmed.



The QF-4 provides a full-scale target for air-to-air weapons system evaluation, development and testing at Tyndall.



Routine precautionary safety measures require that a safety corridor in the Gulf of Mexico and portions of U.S. 98 be closed during take off and landing of these drones, Tyndall officials confirmed. Wednesday’s highway closure was part of these routine procedures and not in response to the incident, Tyndall officials said.



The QF-4 is a referred to by the Air Force as a remotely “controlled target” that simulates enemy aircraft maneuvers.



 



 



An earlier version of this story is posted below:



An unmanned Air Force QF-4 drone assigned to the 53rd Weapons Evaluation Group at Tyndall Air Force Base was destroyed over the Gulf of Mexico at 11:28 ET Wednesday, according to a release from Tyndall AFB.  



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.



The drone burned and crashed into the Gulf of Mexico several miles off of St. Joseph Peninsula State Park. It was observed by a number of residents on Cape San Blas. 



The QF-4 is a reusable full-scale target drone modified from the F-4 Phantom.



The QF-4 provides a realistic full-scale target for air-to-air weapons system evaluation, development, and testing at Tyndall.



Routine precautionary safety measures require that a safety corridor in the Gulf of Mexico and portions of U.S. Highway 98 be closed during take-off and landing of these drones.  



Wednesday’s highway closure was part of these routine procedures and not in response to the incident.