Northrop Grumman has secured a new US Navy order to deliver 18 additional GQM-163A ‘Coyote’ supersonic sea-skimming target (SSST) vehicles.

The US Navy exercised the first of three options under a previously signed contract to place the $55.4m order.

The latest order brings the total number of the GQM-163A targets ordered to date to 218.

Developed by Northrop Grumman, the Coyote SSST vehicles are used to test ship defences against multiple incoming threat scenarios.

The system can be used as a Mach 2.5+ sea skimming target or as a Mach 3.5+ diving target from a maximum altitude of 52,000ft.

Additionally, the ground launched vehicle is capable of performing high G turns.

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Northrop Grumman started developing the Coyote in the early 2000s. The target vehicle completed first flight in 2003.

The company has delivered 124 targets to the US Navy to date.

Northrop Grumman launch vehicles vice-president Rich Straka said: “We are committed to supporting US Navy fleet readiness with our high performance, supersonic Coyote target vehicles.

“Our design integrates a solid-fuel, air-breathing ducted rocket propulsion system with high performance avionics capable of emulating multiple scenarios to prepare and protect our warfighters against evolving threats.”

The company uses its launch vehicle production facility in Chandler, Arizona, to build Coyote.

Headquartered in Virginia, Northrop Grumman focuses on addressing key problems in space, aeronautics, defence and cyberspace verticals.

In February this year, the company announced that it had demonstrated an unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) anti-submarine warfare (ASW) capability in association with UK-based Ultra.

Northrop Grumman has a workforce of around 97,000.