The US Navy’s next-generation Sub-Sonic Aerial Target hit a milestone last month, with the 200th launch of the BQM-177A, Kratos announced on 28 May 2024. 

The role of the BQM-177A is to emulate threats in air-to-air engagements, with a particular focus in highly dynamic, high-subsonic, sea-skimming anti-ship cruise missile threat emulation. In this capacity, Kratos describes the target as unmatched, and capable of speeds in excess of 0.95 Mach, with a sea-skimming altitude as low as 6.6 feet.

The launch came as part of an exercise run by Pacific Target and Marine Operations supporting the US Navy’s AIM-9X mission at Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, in California on 2 April. 

Steve Fendley, President of Kratos Unmanned Systems Division, commented on the milestone: “Because of its high-performance capabilities and demonstrated reliability, the BQM-177A has proven to play a crucial role in the training of today’s warfighters.” 

Fendley continued: “With a global shift toward the use of drones in military applications, this platform is only becoming more relevant in the unmanned landscape of today’s battlefield. The 200th launch is an indicator of just how valuable the 177 is to executing the Navy’s objectives”. 

Greg Crewse, program manager for the Navy’s Aerial Targets Program Office (PMA-208), said “The 200th launch of the BQM-177A is a significant achievement that reflects the dedication and skill of our collective team. We are committed to supporting our warfighters’ need for next-generation target threat capability and are excited to continue improving aerial target systems to ensure that our Navy is ready for any challenge.”

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The aerial target is designed to meet a variety of mission requirements by incorporating an array of internal or external payloads. These including proximity scoring, and identification friend or foe (IFF), as well as a variety of countermeasures, such as passive and active radio frequency augmentation, electronic countermeasures, infrared augmentation through plume pods, chaff and flare dispensers, and towed targets.