QinetiQ has introduced the Kratos Defense and Security Solutions’ MQM-178 Firejet aerial target into the Combined Aerial Target Service (CATS) provided to the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD).
A first Firejet target sortie was flown by QinetiQ at the end of September. Two MQM-178 targets were subsequently flown from the MoD Hebrides Range as part of a multitarget presentation for Exercise ‘Formidable Shield 2017’.
Under CATS, which began in April 2008, QinetiQ has a 20-year contract with the MoD to deliver aerial targets for weapon operator training and weapon system test and evaluation. The target service is delivered from the United Kingdom and overseas, and includes ground-based air-defence training, aerial target services for the Royal Navy, and an air-to-air service for the Royal Air Force.
The CATS service was originally delivered using four different aerial target systems comprising (in order of complexity): the Leonardo Mirach 100/S high-performance subsonic target system; the Meggitt Voodoo intermediate target system; the Meggitt Banshee basic target; and the Meggitt Helicopter Pop-Up portable static target.
Introduction of the MQM-178 represents a partial recapitalisation of the higher end of the CATS inventory. Pitched as a general-purpose target for air defence weapon system testing, the Firejet is pneumatically launched from a rail launcher, and so eliminates the operations costs associated with the use of rocket-assisted take off.
For ‘Formidable Shield 2017’ – a US Navy 6th Fleet exercise intended to improve allied interoperability in a live-fire integrated air and missile defence (IAMD) environment using NATO command-and-control structures – QinetiQ flew both Mirach and Firejet targets together from the MoD Hebrides range for the first time. This ‘salvo’ presentation was performed on 7 October as part of a no-notice launch of surrogate anti-ship cruise missiles in the IAMD exercise scenario.
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