The US Navy has awarded a production contract to Northrop Grumman for GQM-163A ‘Coyote’ supersonic sea-skimming target (SSST) vehicles.

The $57m contract covers the production of 19 target vehicles. It comes with options for an additional 84 SSST vehicles.

If the options are exercised by the Navy, then the contract value could increase to up to $250m.

With the award of the contract, the total count of GQM-163A targets ordered so far increases to 200.

The US Navy uses Coyote supersonic target missile to test naval ship defences in multiple threat scenarios.

Coyote integrates a solid-fuel, air-breathing ducted rocket propulsion system and high-performance avionics into a compact missile airframe.

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The company makes use of 3D printing technology for mockups, tooling, and modifications to preliminary design.

Northrop Grumman launch vehicles vice-president Rich Straka said: “The Coyote is the only supersonic sea-skimming target in production in the US.

“This is our 14th full-rate production contract of reliable and proven threat representative targets.”

Production of Coyote is carried out at Northrop Grumman’s launch vehicle engineering and production facility in Chandler, in the US state of Arizona.

The company first flew the Coyote in 2003. Since then, it has delivered 124 targets to the US Navy and successfully launched them 79 times.

Managed by the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) at the Patuxent River Naval Air Station, the Coyote programme provides the Navy with a ‘cost-effective target’ to simulate anti-ship cruise missile threats.