NEWS | Oct. 5, 2021

USNS Alan Shepard Enhances Training with Navy’s New Sub-Sonic Target

By Leslie Hull-Ryde Military Sealift Command Far East

PACIFIC OCEAN - Lewis and Clark-class dry cargo ship USNS Alan Shepard (T-AKE 3) helped test the capabilities of the BQM-177A, the Navy next-generation Sub-Sonic Aerial Target (SSAT) while operating in the Western Pacific, Sept. 9-10.

“The BQM-177A enhances our readiness because it increases our training capabilities,” said Cmdr. Eli Marshall, range operations officer assigned to Pacific Missile Range Facility in Barking Sands, Hawaii.

This sub-sonic aerial target replicates modern subsonic anti-ship cruise missile threats launched from air, land, surface and subsurface to test the effectiveness of shipboard air defense systems and is used for fleet training. Capable of speeds in excess of 0.95 Mach and a sea-skimming altitude as low as 6.6 feet, the BQM-177A has no equal when it comes to delivering realistic anti-ship missile threat emulation, according to program managers at Naval Air Systems Command.

The BQM-177A provides threat emulation for air-to-air engagements. The BQM-177A’s aerodynamic design and performance capabilities provide high-dynamic, high-subsonic and sea-skimming anti-ship cruise missile threat emulation. This versatile aerial target supports a variety of mission requirements by carrying a wide array of internal and external payloads. These include proximity scoring, Identification Friend or Foe (IFF), passive and active RF augmentation, electronic counter-measures, infrared (IR) augmentation (plume pods), chaff and flare dispensers, and towed targets.

The Navy is in the process of replacing current air-to-air target simulators with the BQM-177A.

Alan Shepard, a fleet ordnance and dry cargo ship, was selected as the first vessel in the U.S. Navy’s Combat Logistics Force operating in the Western Pacific to help test the new capability.

“Alan Shepard’s crew is helping provide valuable training for our warfighters in the WESTPAC area of responsibility,” Marshall said.

Commander, Logistics Group Western Pacific and Task Force 73 is the U.S. 7th Fleet's provider of combat-ready logistics, operating government-owned and contracted ships that keep units throughout 7th Fleet armed, fueled, and fed. USNS Alan Shepard delivers ammunition, food, repair parts, and fuel to U.S., allies’ and partner nations’ navies operating in the region.

As the U.S. Navy's largest forward-deployed fleet, 7th Fleet employs 50-70 ships and submarines across the Western Pacific and Indian Oceans. U.S. 7th Fleet routinely operates and interacts with 35 maritime nations while conducting missions to preserve and protect a free and open Indo-Pacific Region.