US Navy Tests Target Drone

By Mike Ball / 05 Oct 2021

US Navy target drone

The US Navy has tested its next-generation BQM-177A sub-sonic aerial target (SSAT) drone in the Western Pacific with the help of the Lewis and Clark-class dry cargo ship USNS Alan Shepard. The Navy is currently in the process of replacing current air-to-air target simulators with the new BQM-177A.

The sub-sonic aerial target realistically replicates modern subsonic anti-ship cruise missile threats launched from air, land, surface and subsurface in order to test the effectiveness of shipboard air defense systems, and is used for fleet training. The BQM-177 is capable of speeds in excess of 0.95 Mach and a sea-skimming altitude as low as 6.6 feet.

The BQM-177A provides threat emulation for air-to-air engagements. The BQM-177A’s aerodynamic design and performance capabilities provide high-dynamic, high-subsonic and sea-skimming anti-ship cruise missile threat emulation. The versatile aerial target supports a variety of mission requirements by carrying a wide array of internal and external payloads. These include proximity scoring, Identification Friend or Foe (IFF), passive and active RF augmentation, electronic counter-measures, infrared (IR) augmentation (plume pods), chaff and flare dispensers, and towed targets.

Alan Shepard, a fleet ordnance and dry cargo ship, was selected as the first vessel in the U.S. Navy’s Combat Logistics Force operating in the Western Pacific to help test the new capability. Commander, Logistics Group Western Pacific and Task Force 73 is the U.S. 7th Fleet’s provider of combat-ready logistics, operating government-owned and contracted ships that keep units throughout 7th Fleet armed, fueled, and fed. USNS Alan Shepard delivers ammunition, food, repair parts, and fuel to U.S., allies’ and partner nations’ navies operating in the region.

Cmdr. Eli Marshall, range operations officer assigned to Pacific Missile Range Facility in Barking Sands, Hawaii, commented: “The BQM-177A enhances our readiness because it increases our training capabilities. Alan Shepard’s crew is helping provide valuable training for our warfighters in the WESTPAC area of responsibility.”

Posted by Mike Ball Mike Ball is our resident technical editor here at Unmanned Systems Technology. Combining his passion for teaching, advanced engineering and all things unmanned, Mike keeps a watchful eye over everything related to the unmanned technical sector. With over 10 years’ experience in the unmanned field and a degree in engineering, Mike’s been heading up our technical team here for the last 8 years. Connect & Contact