US Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) has revealed that the US Navy recently completed three back-to-back test flights off the coast of Japan with its newest subsonic aerial target – the BQM-177A – in preparation for the type achieving full operational capability (FOC) later this year.
While NAVAIR announced the successful completion of this milestone on October 4, this series of test flights took place from the USS Barry (DDG-52) guided missile destroyer off the coast of Japan on September 9-10. The objective of this recent test flight campaign was to qualify the BQM-177A for land- and ship-based training operations from that location.
Testing was supported by the Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF) Detachment-Far East (DET-FE) with assistance from the US Navy’s Aerial Target program office’s (PMA-208’s) Pacific Targets and Maritime Operations team, which conducted the testing work from the USS Barry. The PMRF DET-FE is based on the Japanese island of Okinawa.
Don Blottenberger, PMA-208 program manager, said: “We learned a lot from these events and to scale this capability in the future to other surface ships we now know how to move forward. The team did fantastic in planning and execution of the event.”
He added that the PMRF DET-FE fires approximately eight-to-ten BQM-74 aerial targets per year and based on inventory levels, having the BQM-177A qualified at the facility will provide greater flexibility for the fleet to conduct training missions. These recent test flights have marked the BQM-177A’s readiness for achieving FOC, which is scheduled to be awarded before the end of this year.
Kratos Defense & Security – the BQM-177A’s manufacturer – has delivered more than 100 aerial targets to the US Navy to date. These are currently being used for land-based operations at sites across the East and West Coast of the continental US.
According to NAVAIR, the BQM-177A “replicates modern subsonic anti-ship cruise missile threats launched from air, land, surface and subsurface [platforms] to test the effectiveness of shipboard air defence systems and is used for fleet training.” The BQM-177A is capable of reaching speeds in excess of Mach 0.95 (1,173km/h) and can fly at sea-skimming altitudes as low as 6.6ft (2.01m).