NAVAIR uses Northrop Grumman’s BQM-74E subsonic target in training and evaluation.(IHS Jane’s/Patrick Allen).
By Richard Scott, Jane’s Defence News, 7/13/2011 — The US Naval Air Systems Command’s (NAVAIR’s) Aerial Target and Decoy Systems programme office (PMA-208), under the Program Executive Office for Unmanned Aviation and Strike Weapons, is charged with providing the US Navy (USN) with "threat-representative aerial targets for fleet training and weapon systems test and evaluation".
To achieve this objective, it manages a large and diverse inventory of target vehicles designed to replicate the kinematic and signature characteristics of generic or specific air threats.
As of mid-2011, PMA-208′s eclectic stable comprised the Northrop Grumman BQM-34S Firebee and BQM-74E subsonic targets, the AQM-37C/D supersonic target and the Orbital Sciences GQM-163A Coyote Supersonic Sea-Skimming Target (SSST). "We are constantly in touch with the navy’s threat analysis group," Captain Dan McNamara, PMA-208 Program Manager, told Jane’s . "We use their evaluations and estimates to ensure that we can replicate threat presentations in order that we can realistically test our weapons against it. Our job is to provide the fleet [with] the critical test and training capabilities they need before deploying."
He added: "For the most part, we don’t have a unique target to emulate each specific threat. Instead, we try to have generic target vehicles that can be configured, through changes in radar cross-section, flight profile and electronic payloads, to cover a wide envelope of threats."
However, the emergence of new anti-ship cruise missile (ASCM) threats during the past decade has left the legacy target inventory unable to replicate some of the complex and stressing flight profiles associated with the latest subsonic and supersonic ASCM threat types. . . .