The Navy recently conducted test flights of the BQM-177A subsonic aerial target off the coast of Japan ahead of Full Operational Capability (FOC) slated for this year, the service said Monday.
The Kratos [KTOS]-made target is the Navy’s newest recoverable target. It aims to act as a high performance unmanned aircraft to replicate cruise missile threats launched from the air, land, surface and subsurface. The Navy uses the targets to test the effectiveness of air defense systems and training.
The BQM-177A is capable of speeds upward of 0.95 Mach and a sea skimming altitude as low as 6.6 feet.
The Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF) Detachment-Far East (DET FE) along with PMA-208’s Pacific Targets and Maritime Operations team conducted the operations from Sept. 9-10 from the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Barry (DDG-52) to qualify BQM-177A for training exercises there.
The Navy said the DET FE currently fires eight to 10 older Northrop Grumman [NOC] BQM-74 targets annually. Don Blottenberger, PMA-208 program manager, said based on inventory levels, having the BQM-177A qualified at the Japan location will provide more flexibility for fleet training missions.
“We learned a lot from these events and to scale this capability in the future to other surface ships we now know how to move forward. The team did fantastic in planning and execution of the event,” Blottenberger said in a statement.
The Navy said Kratos has delivered over 100 BQM-177A targets so far. Both East and West Coast operational sites are currently using the targets for land-based operations. The latest tests qualify the target for land and ship-based operations. The service said this marks its readiness for FOC.
Kratos delivered the first of 45 BQM-177A year one systems under a low-rate initial production contract in 2018. Also at that time the Navy posted a notice of its intent to purchase another 60 targets for year three (Defense Daily, July 12, 2018).
In a 2018 interview with Defense Daily, a Kratos official said the company expected to produce 80-100 units per year for up to the next few decades, noting the previous systems were produced for 30-50 years. The official said the BQM-177A coil bring in $50 million to $100 million in revenue annually.
The BQM-177A can carry several payloads including radio-frequency and infrared simulators to simulate the signature of certain threats, tow targets and countermeasures.