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USN seeks performance enhancements for GQM-163A supersonic target

A GQM-163 Coyote target overflies a mobile ship target. (Orbital Sciences)

The US Navy (USN) is looking to expand the kinematic envelope of the GQM-163A Coyote supersonic aerial target to enable more stressing and realistic threat representations.

US Naval Air Systems Command's (NAVAIR's) Aerial Targets program office (PMA-208) in February issued a pre-solicitation of its intent to contract Northrop Grumman for a 12-month study to increase the target's performance envelope. A contract award is anticipated in the first quarter of fiscal year (FY) 2025.

PMA-208 programme manager Greg Crewse told Janes on 4 March that the programme was seeking “a system-level solution that provides the [GQM-163A] vehicle with [a] higher cruise altitude, a steeper dive angle, vertical/combined manoeuvres, and a greater lateral acceleration capability”. He added that the enhancements package – intended to enhance testing of various ship self-defence systems – was “open to alternative propulsion systems”.

PMA-208 also confirmed that it approved the capability to employ chaff with the GQM-163A during FY 2023, intended to increase complexity presentation.

Developed by Orbital Sciences – now Northrop Grumman – to meet the navy's Supersonic Sea-Skimming Target requirement, the GQM-163A is a non-recoverable, surface-launched supersonic target replicating a range of anti-ship cruise missile threats. Rail-launched using a solid-rocket booster, the air vehicle is powered by an Aerojet Rocketdyne MARC-R-282 solid-fuel rocket/ramjet.

The GQM-163A can fly either ‘sea skimmer' or ‘high-diver' trajectories. In the former, the vehicle can achieve a speed of Mach 2.6 during the cruise phase, and then descend to a 15 ft altitude for a 10 n miles terminal phase. Manoeuvres of up to 12 g in azimuth and 5 g

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