The US Navy's (USN's) BQM-177A Subsonic Aerial Target (SSAT) programme has achieved Milestone C approval, paving the way for award of a first low-rate initial production (LRIP) contract to Kratos Defense & Security Solutions.
What is now the Composite Engineering, Inc (CEi) subsidiary of Kratos' Unmanned Systems Division is prime contractor for the SSAT programme under an engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) contract awarded in January 2011. The SSAT programme is being managed by the Naval Air System Command's (NAVAIR's) Aerial Target and Decoy Systems Program Office (PMA-208).
Designed to initially augment, and eventually replace, the USN's existing BQM-34S and BQM-74E targets, the BQM-177A is a new high fidelity target that will be used to replicate subsonic anti-cruise missile threats in support of fleet training and weapon system testing and evaluation. Compared with the targets it will replace, the BQM-177A will deliver longer-range, lower cruise altitudes (down to 10 ft) and greater manoeuvrability.
The BQM-177A is based on Kratos' BQM-167X unmanned air target vehicle demonstrator, itself a derivative of the BQM-167A Skeeter target currently being supplied to the US Air Force under the Air Force Subscale Aerial Target programme.
Although it leverages from the BQM-167A design, the BQM-177A introduces a new fuselage with area ruling, high-mounted wings, and an internally integrated Safran Microturbo TR 60-5+ turbojet engine for reduced transonic drag.
The BQM-177A can also carry a variety of internal and wing tip-mounted payloads. These include electronic countermeasures, active and passive radar augmentation, infrared, identification friend or foe, internal chaff and flare dispensing, threat emitter simulators, smoke generators, and scoring systems.
Milestone C is a Milestone Decision Authority (MDA)-led review held towards the end of the EMD phase of the Department of Defense acquisition process. NAVAIR told IHS Jane's, "Approval was successfully granted by the MDA, Rear Admiral Mark Darrah, Program Executive Officer, Unmanned Aviation and Strike Weapons [PEO(U&W)].
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