The US Navy is planning to develop a new supersonic aerial target to replace its dwindling inventory of AQM-37s, the latest supersonic target effort following the service’s cancellation of the Multi-Stage Supersonic Target (MSST) GQM-173.

The new target would be capable of high altitude cruise trajectories, as well as tactical ballistic and lofted missile profiles, according to a 1 August acquisition notice released by Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR). The target would not only replace the AQM-37, but could also be considered for future supersonic target capabilities, according to NAVAIR.

After experiencing challenges with development of Alliant Techsystems’ MSST, the US Navy canceled the programme in September 2015. The MSST, which would have replicated multi-stage supersonic anti-ship cruise missile threats by transitioning from subsonic cruise to a supersonic terminal phase, reached first flight in 2011 and first launch in June 2012.

But the supersonic target described in the latest sources sought does not replace the MSST GQM-173, Capt Tom Cecil, aerial targets and decoy programme manager at NAVAIR, tells FlightGlobal.

“As the current inventory of AQM-37 targets is consumed, the Navy is interested in exploring available replacement options for a generic supersonic target,” he says. “Although the MSST programme was canceled, the Navy has still been exploring the impact of key portions of the MSST threat behavior on our combat systems using the Advanced Electronic Threat Generator (AETG) being developed for Air and Missile Defense Radar (AMDR).”

While MSST was designed to emulate the Russian Novator 3M54 Klub, a surface skimming missile that climbs to almost hypersonic speeds before zig-zagging to its target, the navy’s recent missile effort is not intended to simulate a specific threat. Instead, the target would emulate a wide variety of anti-ship cruise missile threats, the navy says.