Northrop Grumman has successfully completed an avionics upgrade on aging aerial targets used by the US Navy on training missions.

As part of the avionics upgrade programme, the company retrofitted modern avionics hardware to a total of 25 BQM-34S Firebee aerial targets from the navy’s primary target system, the Northrop-built BQM-74E.

Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems BQM-34 targets programme manager Hans Dall said the upgraded targets would meet the navy’s most critical training system requirements for many years.

“The BQM-34Ss can be operated with the standard navy target control command and control system, and will allow the navy to carry larger payloads than the BQM-74E,” he said.

Aerial targets are used to simulate tactical threats posed by enemy aircraft and missiles, test surface ship defensive weapons systems and train pilots in air-to-air combat techniques.

New avionics provide the BQM-34Ss with fully autonomous waypoint navigation and the capability to perform intricate manoeuvres at extremely low altitudes.

With a top speed of Mach 0.97, the BQM-34 Firebee can be operated at an altitude ranging from 10ft above the sea surface to 60,000ft.