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US Navy’s Subsonic Target Drone Achieves Full Operational Capability

The US Navy’s next-generation subsonic aerial target reached full operational capability during a joint maritime exercise in the Philippine Sea.

Called the BQM-177A, the target drone is a recoverable aerial target system that imitates advanced subsonic anti-ship cruise missile threats.

It is designed to test the effectiveness of shipboard air defense systems.

“It is unmatched in its performance capabilities when it comes to delivering realistic anti-ship missile threat emulation,” program managers at Naval Air Systems Command said.

During the exercise, the target drone was launched from a Lewis and Clark-class dry cargo ship and engaged missiles from the Navy’s Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer.

The trial also marked the first time the BQM-177A was used in the Western Pacific region.

“Not only am I glad the [Task Force] 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,” Task Force 71 commander Capt. Walter Mainor stated.

BQM-177A subsonic aerial target
The Lewis and Clark-class dry cargo and ammunition ship launches a BQM-177A target drone during a recent maritime exercise. Photo: Gregory Johnson/US Navy

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