The US Navy has awarded a contract to Kratos Defense & Security Solutions for lot three of low-rate initial production (LRIP III) for the BQM-177A subsonic aerial target (SSAT).

The $25.41m firm-fixed-price contract will see the procurement of 34 BQM-177A Subsonic Aerial Targets and technical data. The Naval Air Systems Command is the contracting activity.

Kratos will conduct the contract work in Sacramento, California. Completion of the work is expected to take place in March 2021.

The navy will obligate the contract funds at the time of the award.

Kratos Unmanned Systems Division president Steve Fendley said: “This LRIP III award following the initial operational capability (IOC) achievement announced earlier this year, represents the final milestone prior to the expected full rate production start for Kratos’ BQM-177A SSAT.

“The recapitalisation of strategic weapon systems by the US and its allies to address peer-level threats is driving the need for new and additional threat representative target drones to exercise our forces and defensive systems.

“We are proud to be the sole source provider well into the future for this crucial high performance system that emulates anti-ship cruise missiles for the US Navy and our allies.”

The BQM-177A is the navy’s next-generation SSAT set to eventually replace the existing BQM-74E aerial target. It achieved the IOC in February.

It is designed to simulate subsonic anti-cruise missile threats for fleet training and weapon system testing and evaluation.

Deliveries from LRIP I started in the early second half of last year.

The BQM-177A is capable of achieving speeds of more than 0.95 Mach and a sea-skimming altitude as low as 10ft.