Home Americas US Navy’s new drone target declared operational after Pacific Vanguard live fire

US Navy’s new drone target declared operational after Pacific Vanguard live fire

US Navy target drone intercept
BQM-177A launches from USNS Alan Shepard (T-AKE 3). Photo: US Navy

The US Navy’s newest subsonic aerial target (SSAT), the BQM-177A, reached full operational capability during a standard missile launch and intercept while participating in exercise Pacific Vanguard 2022 (PV 22) in the Philippine Sea.

The target drones were launched on August 28 from the Lewis and Clark-class dry cargo ship USNS Alan Shepard (T-AKE 3) and engaged with missiles launched from Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Barry (DDG 52) and Royal Australian Navy Anzac-class frigate HMAS Perth (FFH 157), marking the first time the BQM-177A has been used in the Western Pacific region and highlighting the drones achieving full operational capability.

“Not only am I glad the [Commander, Task Force (CTF)] 71 team was the first to have a successful Missile Launch against a brand-new type of target drone, but I am extremely grateful that we got to do it side by side with our allies and partners in the region,” said Capt. Walter Mainor, commander, Task Force 71. “I’m proud of all of the participants who worked hard to make this happen, but I’m especially proud of the crews of USS Barry, USNS Alan Shepard, and our coalition partner HMAS Perth.”

Built by Kratos Unmanned Aerial Systems, BQM-177A is an advanced high-subsonic, recoverable aerial target system that imitates advanced subsonic anti-ship cruise missile threats to test the effectiveness of shipboard air defense systems and is used for fleet training.

“Our primary focus in the targets community is effective, affordable training and test for the US Navy,” said Don Blottenberger, the Navy’s Aerial Targets program manager. “The efforts of the team, including partnership with MSC and the target operations organizations, represents the best of our community. The BQM-177, now fully capable, will provide quality service to our warfighters for decades to come.”

In addition to the US Navy, Kratos is on contract to deliver the BQM-177A to Japan, Saudi Arabia, and Australia.