The US Navy’s (USN’s) new BQM-177A Subsonic Aerial Target (SSAT) has achieved Initial Operational Capability (IOC), the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) announced on 28 February.
Designed to initially augment, and eventually replace, the service’s existing BQM-74E aerial target, the BQM-177A is a new high-fidelity recoverable target developed by Kratos Defense & Security Solutions to replicate subsonic anti-cruise missile threats in support of fleet training and weapon system testing and evaluation. Compared with the systems it will replace, the BQM-177A will deliver longer-range, lower cruise altitudes (down to 10 ft), higher speed (Mach 0.95) and greater manoeuvrability (-2g to 9g).
A BQM-177A Subsonic Aerial Target is launched from Point Mugu, California. (US Navy)
The BQM-177A is based on Kratos’ BQM-167X unmanned aerial 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.
Kratos began deliveries of BQM-177A targets from Low Rate Initial Production Lot 1 (LRIP1) in June 2018. The first use of a BQM-177A outside of developmental testing was conducted at Point Mugu, California, on 21 July 2018.