It appears to a naive layman like myself that the QF-16 is an excellent platform to use for remote controlled missions akin to that of other drones. Except that the F-16 appears to have a broader mission envelope than a Predator or Global Hawk. For one, the F-16 is in general quite capable against the majority of the world's active combat aircraft. As I'm sure anyone qualified to answer knows better than myself, it has a proven record in a variety of air to air missions, dogfighting, and ground attack missions.
Are there any other drones, besides the QF-16 that are even remotely as capable, in comparison, and that already exist, in large numbers, like the QF-16?
The benefits of this should be obvious. The QF-16 is after all a disposable aircraft, yet one that is at least somewhat capable. With a drone, no pilot life is at risk. With an autonomous drone, no pilot is required at all for the actual fight, only planning of the mission. This should be an obvious advantage, and from what little I can tell, various---albeit less capable---drones exploit this advantage already.
Just to provide some more context: Many interesting things can be easily imagined, the F-22/F-35 often talks of using fourth generation aircraft as a "force multiplier" by feeding them data from its sensors, such as target information. Such a force multiplier with autonomous, disposable aircraft seems rather interesting to say the least.
I'd like the know if there are any plans to use the QF-16 as a drone for combat missions, and if not, why not?
I'd also like to know if there are any plans to use the QF-16 as an autonomous fighter, as in, program the target into the aircraft, and send it on its way, and have it return, all without any pilot input.
The last question is the most interesting to me. Is there any publicly known research in this direction? Towards making autonomous combat aircraft? Perhaps the QF-16 platform is greatly underpowered both in terms of hardware and avionics (sensors) to realistically (even if the software could be developed) to act in such a manner.
Are there any plans for such things? If not, why not? Are other aircraft in consideration, or is it in general a bad idea? Why?