The US Navy’s next-generation of sub-sonic aerial target, the Kratos BQM-177A, reached initial operational capability on 27 February.

The service says the jet-powered target drone will soon start land-based operations from Naval Air Station Point Mugu, California. The Kratos BQM-177A is designed to simulate sea-skimming anti-ship cruise missiles. The USN uses the target as a stand-in for practicing shooting down cruise missiles.

"BQM-177A represents the current threats to our forces and delivers improvements in speed and maneuverability to the subsonic target inventory," says Capt Molly Boron, Navy Aerial Targets programme manager. "I am proud of the collaborative work between our subsonic integrated product team and the operators at Pacific Targets and Marine Operations for reaching this milestone."

Kratos BQM-177A

Kratos BQM-177A with rocket launch

US Navy

BQM-177A is a rocket-launched, recoverable target that is to replace the legacy BQM-74E target, says the USN. It is capable of speeds in excess of 667kt (1235km/h), which is just short of Mach 1, and can fly as low as 6.6ft above the surface of the sea, according to Kratos.

Kratos says the target drone is capable of carrying a variety of payloads including proximity scoring, identification friend or foe, passive and active RF augmentation, electronic counter-measures, infrared augmentation, chaff and flare dispensers, and towed target hardware.