The US Navy has declared full operational capability (FOC) for its next-generation subsonic aerial target (SSAT), called BQM-177A.

The milestone was achieved during a quadrilateral Standard Missile (SM) 2 exercise Pacific Vanguard 2022 (PV 22) in the Philippine Sea on 28 August.

PV 22’s latest iteration was conducted between Australia, Japan, the Republic of Korea and the US.

The BQM-177A target drones were launched from the US Navy’s Lewis and Clark-class dry cargo and ammunition vessel USNS Alan Shepard (T-AKE 3).

Besides, the missiles were launched from the US Navy’s Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Barry (DDG 52) and the Royal Australian Navy’s (RAN) Anzac-class frigate HMAS Perth (FFH 157).

After the launch, the BQM-177A target drones successfully engaged with the missiles, marking the FOC milestone.

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This was the first time BQM-177A SSAT has been used in the Western Pacific region.

Task Force 71 Commander captain Walter Mainor said: “Not only am I glad Commander, Task Force (CTF) 71 team was first to have a successful missile launch against a brand-new type of target drone, but I am extremely grateful we got to do it side-by-side with our allies and partners in region.

“I’m proud of all of participants who worked hard to make this happen, but I’m especially proud of crews of USS Barry, USNS Alan Shepard and our coalition partner HMAS Perth.”

Developed by Kratos, BQM-177A is an advanced high-subsonic aerial target system designed to imitate subsonic anti-ship cruise missile threats.

It can also be used for fleet training and for evaluating effectiveness of shipboard air defence systems.

US Navy Aerial Targets programme manager Don Blottenberger said: “The BQM-177, now fully capable, will provide quality service to our warfighters for decades to come.”