The US Navy has announced that its next-generation subsonic aerial target (SSAT), the BQM-177A, has achieved initial operational capability (IOC).

Developed by Kratos Defense & Security Solutions, the BQM-177A SSAT drone system can achieve speeds of more than 0.95 Mach and a sea-skimming altitude as low as 10ft.

The BQM-177A has been designed to provide highly dynamic, high-subsonic, sea-skimming anti-ship cruise missile threat emulation for air-to-air engagements to the US Navy.

According to the US Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR), Naval Air Station Point Mugu in California will be the first site of operation for the BQM-177A from where it was launched for the first time outside of developmental testing.

“The BQM-177A has been designed to provide highly dynamic, high-subsonic, sea-skimming anti-ship cruise missile threat emulation for air-to-air engagements to the US Navy.”

Kratos Unmanned Systems Division president Steve Fendley said: “We are incredibly proud to support the US Navy and our warfighters by providing these high-performance unmanned jet target aircraft and appreciate the team relationship we have enjoyed with our navy customer in developing and advancing the system to this critical milestone.

“We look forward to continuing to support the navy for many years to come with the BQM-177A system and its abilities to replicate current and evolving threats.”

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The US Navy received the first production of the BQM-177A drone systems from Kratos in July last year under low-rate initial production (LRIP) year one contracts.

The aerial target can carry several internal and external payloads, including proximity scoring, identification friend or foe (IFF), passive and active radio frequency (RF) augmentation.

In addition, the target can be equipped with electronic counter-measures, infrared (IR) augmentation (plume pods), chaff and flare dispensers, and towed targets.