Naval Weapons

USN completes first GQM-163A Coyote east coast target launch

08 October 2019

First GQM-163A launches from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia were performed on 12 September. Source: NASA

The US Navy (USN) has undertaken first launches of the GQM-163A Coyote Supersonic Sea Skimming Target (SSST) from an east coast range facility.

Performed on 12 September from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility (WFF) in Virginia, the launch of two GQM-163A targets supported a fleet missile exercise (MSLEX) activity.

Originally developed by Orbital Sciences - now Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems - to meet the USN's requirement for a high-fidelity SSST to replicate a family of supersonic sea skimming anti-ship cruise missile threats for fleet training and test and evaluation, the GQM-163A uses a first-stage Mk 70 solid-rocket booster to accelerate off a rail launcher and achieve supersonic speed. Following booster separation, the air vehicle is sustained in flight by an Aerojet Rocketdyne MARC-R-282 four-inlet, solid-fuel ducted rocket/ramjet.

GQM-163A is able to fly either 'sea skimmer' or 'high-diver' flight trajectories. In the former case, the air vehicle can achieve a speed of Mach 2.6 during the cruise phase (nominally 35 n miles), and then descend to a minimum altitude of 15 ft and speed of Mach 2.6 for a 10 n mile terminal phase. Manoeuvres of up to 12 g in azimuth and 5 g in elevation can be executed in the terminal approach.

As a 'high diver', the GQM-163A can attain a maximum altitude of 52,000 ft cruising at up to Mach 3.8. It then performs a powered terminal dive at angles between 15° and 55°, achieving an impact speed of Mach 0.7-3.0.

The USN target inventory is procured and managed by the Aerial Targets Program Office (PMA-208) in Naval Air Systems Command. "This [WFF] site activation established a MSLEX capability in support of operational readiness and certification of deploying carrier strike groups," said NAVAIR in a statement.

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