The U.S. Navy successfully launched its first GQM-163A Coyote Supersonic Sea Skimming Target (SSST) from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility (WFF) in Virginia Sept. 12 to meet expanding fleet training requirements on the East Coast. The GQM-163 Coyote is a supersonic aerial target capable of Mach 2-plus sea skimming target built by Orbital Sciences and used by the United States Navy as a successor to the MQM-8 Vandal. The Coyote replicates a family of supersonic sea skimming anti-ship cruise missile threats for fleet training and test and evaluation of ship self-defense systems.
Orbital’s proposal was chosen over the MA-31, a joint venture between Boeing and Zvezda-Strela. Orbital was awarded their contract for the development of the Coyote SSST in June 2000. The Coyote is initially boosted by a Hercules MK-70 booster, of similar design to those used by the now obsolete RIM-67 Standard ER missiles. After the booster stage is expended the missile switches to an Aerojet MARC-R-282 solid-fuel rocket /ramjet engine for sustaining its flight. In July 2018, Orbital Sciences Corp was awarded a US$52m modification to its existing contract, for 18 Lot 12 targets plus some Foreign Military Sales.
The U.S. Navy’s aerial targets program office (PMA-208) worked with multiple stakeholders to launch two GQM-163A targets, demonstrating operational capability and completing the WFF site activation for an East Coast supersonic target capability in support of a fleet missile exercise (MSLEX) training. MSLEX is a live exercise designed to increase fleet lethality and tactical proficiency by providing operators a venue to execute their procedures in real-time. U.S. Fleet Forces Command plans to execute two to three events per year to meet the intent of the Chief of Naval Operation’s directive for all carrier strike groups to complete MSLEX training prior to deployment.