Kratos Defense & Security Solutions has achieved the final development milestone for its BQM-177A subsonic aerial target (SSAT).

The achievement paves the way for low-rate initial production (LRIP), which is expected to begin once the Federal Fiscal 2017 Budget is approved.

Under the SSAT programme, a new high-fidelity target will be designed to replicate subsonic anti-cruise missile threats in direct support of the US Navy's fleet training and weapon system testing and evaluation.

"The entire USD team is proud to have recently achieved the final development milestone on the US Navy SSAT programme."

The SSAT programme is being managed by the Naval Air System command (NAVAIR) Aerial Target and Decoy Systems Program Office (PMA-208).

Kratos unmanned systems division president Jerry Beaman said: "The entire USD team is proud to have recently achieved the final development milestone on the US Navy SSAT programme that was required prior to the commencement of production, which we currently expect to begin early next year."

Designed to replace the existing BQM-74E targets, the BQM-177A will deliver longer range, lower cruise altitudes and greater manoeuvrability.

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Based on Kratos' BQM-167X aircraft, the BQM-177A is fitted with a new fuselage with area ruling, high mounted wings and an internally integrated MicroTurbo TR-60-5+ turbo jet engine for reduced transonic drag.

The SSAT can be used for carrying a variety of internal and wing tip mounted payloads, including electronic counter-measures, active and passive radar augmentation, infrared, identification of friend or foe, internal chaff and flare dispensing, threat emitter simulators, smoke and scoring.