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.

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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