The Navy on Dec. 23 awarded Kratos [KTOS] a $51 million modification to procure 65 more BQM-177A subsonic aerial targets.

The order covers 50 targets for the U.S. Navy, seven for Japan and eight for Saudi Arabia as well as support for full rate production lot three. Work will mostly occur in Sacramento, Calif. (55.41 percent) and Dallas, Texas (17.36 percent) and other locations in the continental U.S. and is expected to be finished by February 2024.

$38 million in FY ‘22 Navy weapons procurement funds, $1.6 million in FY ‘21 Navy funds that were Foreign Military Sales (FMS) funds converted to weapons procurement to replace two targets used by Australia, and $12 million in FMS funds will all be obligated at the time of award with none set to expire at the end of this fiscal year.

The BQM-177A is a recoverable target that acts as a high performance unmanned aircraft to replicate cruise missile threats. It replaces the legacy recoverable BQM-74E and features the ability to reach speeds over 0.9 Mach and skim the sea at an altitude as low as 10 feet. It can carry payloads like radio-frequency and infrared simulators to mimic the signature of other threats, tow targets, and countermeasures. 

The Navy uses the targets to test the effectiveness of air defense systems and training.

“The Kratos team is incredibly proud to receive this third consecutive full rate production option award supporting our U.S. Navy customer. We are also excited that 15 of these drone aircraft will support the U.S. Government’s foreign allies,” Steve Fendley, president of Kratos’ Unmanned Systems Division, said in a statement.

“Throughout the challenges of the last two years, Kratos has remained focused on developing, producing, and delivering target and tactical drone systems to support the established and forecasted customer needs,” he added.

In September, the Navy conducted flight tests of the BQM-177A off the coast of Japan before the system moves to Full Operational Capability (FOC) (Defense Daily, Oct. 4, 2021).

The system achieved Initial Operational Capability in early 2019 (Defense Daily, March 5, 2019).

Kratos delivered the initial 45 BQM-177As in 2018 and, at the time, Fendley said the company expects to produce 80-100 units annually for the foreseeable future as it moved toward FOC (Defense Daily, July 12, 2018).