GQM-163 SSST: A Tricky Coyote to Match Wits With Defenses

GQM-163A Coyote Launch

GQM-163A launch
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Order for USA & Japan.

Oct 10/14: FRP-8. A $27.7 million firm-fixed-price, fixed-price-incentive, cost-plus-fixed fee contract for 7 GQM-163A Coyote SSST base vehicles, including the associated hardware, kits and production support for the U.S. Navy (3 / $13.7M / 50%) and the government of Japan (4 / $14.0M / 50%). All funds are committed immediately.

Work will be performed in Chandler, AZ (71%); Camden, AK (24%); Vergennes, VT (3%); and Hollister, CA (2%); and is expected to be complete in June 2017. This contract was not competitively procured pursuant to FAR 6.302-1 (N00019-15-C-0009).

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Shot across the bow(click to view full) The rocket-boosted, ramjet-powered GQM-163A was developed to simulate supersonic cruise missiles like the SS-N-22 Sunburn, Kh-31 (aka. AS-17 Krypton, which may have an anti-air AWACS-killer version), the Indo-Russian PJ-10 Brahmos, etc., which are proliferating throughout the world. Their speed and evasive maneuvers compress the amount of time a defense system has to deal with them to under a minute. A training target that can simulate their performance is critical to both proper preparedness and pursuant performance. Despite this growing need, the Supersonic Sea Skimming Target (SSST) program moved very slowly in the 1990s, with false starts that included a Boeing-Strela Kh-31 Krypton variant before the decision was made to develop a new SSST. Orbital Sciences won the contract in June 2000, but the BQM-163 suffered a number of program delays before its final developmental test flight eventually took place in in April 2005. The program is now moving forward, slowly, and picking up international customers as well… The GQM-163 Coyote SSST Coyote cutaway(click to view full) The Coyote target missile design integrates a 4-inlet, solid-fuel ducted-rocket ramjet propulsion system into a compact missile airframe 18 feet long and 14 inches in diameter. Rail-launched […]
GQM-163A Coyote Test

Shot across the bow
(click to view full)

The rocket-boosted, ramjet-powered GQM-163A was developed to simulate supersonic cruise missiles like the SS-N-22 Sunburn, Kh-31 (aka. AS-17 Krypton, which may have an anti-air AWACS-killer version), the Indo-Russian PJ-10 Brahmos, etc., which are proliferating throughout the world. Their speed and evasive maneuvers compress the amount of time a defense system has to deal with them to under a minute. A training target that can simulate their performance is critical to both proper preparedness and pursuant performance.

Despite this growing need, the Supersonic Sea Skimming Target (SSST) program moved very slowly in the 1990s, with false starts that included a Boeing-Strela Kh-31 Krypton variant before the decision was made to develop a new SSST. Orbital Sciences won the contract in June 2000, but the BQM-163 suffered a number of program delays before its final developmental test flight eventually took place in in April 2005. The program is now moving forward, slowly, and picking up international customers as well…

The GQM-163 Coyote SSST

GQM-163A Coyote Cutaway

Coyote cutaway
(click to view full)

The Coyote target missile design integrates a 4-inlet, solid-fuel ducted-rocket ramjet propulsion system into a compact missile airframe 18 feet long and 14 inches in diameter. Rail-launched from Navy test and training ranges, the highly maneuverable Coyote achieves cruise speeds of over Mach 2.5, with a range of approximately 60 nautical miles at altitudes of less than 20 feet above the sea surface. Designation Systems writes:

“The GQM-163A is launched from the ground with the help of a Hercules MK 70 rocket booster (left over from obsolete RIM-67 Standard ER missiles). The MK 70 is externally identical to the older MK 12 booster of the original specification. The sustainer propulsion system consists of an Atlantic Research Corporation (now Aerojet) MARC-R-282 solid-fueled ducted rocket/ramjet engine, which can propel the Coyote to speeds of up to Mach 2.8 at sea level. In the terminal approach phase, the GQM-163A will fly at Mach 2.5 at 5 m (16 ft) altitude. To save costs, the missile’s flight control avionics and its front end structure are taken from the [DID: Beech/Raytheon] AQM-37D target.”

The Coyote can carry a payload, but its size and short range make it unsuitable as an actual anti-ship missile. Those same characteristics are just fine as a naval target. Orbital Sciences says that:

“Orbital’s major subcontractors include Aerojet Corporation in Gainesville, Virginia and Sacramento, California, for the solid-fuel ducted-rocket motor, and CEi, Inc. in Sacramento, California, for the vehicle’s avionics system.”

The GQM-163A Coyote has entered operational service at the Naval Air Warfare Center (NAWC) in Point Mugu, CA, and is replacing the MQM-8 VANDAL that was based on the liquid-fuel ramjet-powered Talos missile. It has also been used by Australia, and ordered by France and Japan.

Contracts and Key Events

Unless otherwise noted, contracts were issued by US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, Md. to Orbital Sciences Corp.’s Launch Systems Group in Chandler, AZ, USA.

FY 2014 – 2015

USN needs enhancements.

GQM-163A Coyote Launch

GQM-163A launch
(click to view full)

Oct 10/14: FRP-8. A $27.7 million firm-fixed-price, fixed-price-incentive, cost-plus-fixed fee contract for 7 GQM-163A Coyote SSST base vehicles, including the associated hardware, kits and production support for the U.S. Navy (3 / $13.7M / 50%) and the government of Japan (4 / $14.0M / 50%). All funds are committed immediately.

Work will be performed in Chandler, AZ (71%); Camden, AK (24%); Vergennes, VT (3%); and Hollister, CA (2%); and is expected to be complete in June 2017. This contract was not competitively procured pursuant to FAR 6.302-1 (N00019-15-C-0009).

Jan 28/14: DOT&E Testing Report. The Pentagon releases the FY 2013 Annual Report from its Office of the Director, Operational Test & Evaluation (DOT&E). The Coyote is included, but not in the standard way. DOT&E says that the US Navy needs to upgrade the GQM-163, in 2 ways:

“Operationally realistic emissions from the GQM-163A supersonic target require threat-representative ASCM seekers that will stay locked on the target ship…. This unit would be similar to the seeker used in the BQM-34 Open Loop Seeker subsonic target and the STEERAN unit currently used in the BQM-74E subsonic target. Since the diameters of the GQM and BQM targets differ greatly, the new ASCM seeker requires extensive re-engineering and testing to adapt the BQM unit to fit the GQM without disturbing the GQM kinematics / maneuverability. CVN-78/Rolling Airframe Missile Block 2 requires this capability for adequate operational testing in FY17. Estimated development cost is $10 Million to $20 Million. Estimated unit cost is $500 Thousand….

The Navy’s GQM-163A Coyote Validation Report of May 2006 identified two threats that the Coyote could fundamentally represent. Thus far, attention has focused mostly on a Coyote representation of one of the two threats. DOT&E recommends an engineering analysis to determine what alterations to the Coyote vehicle should be made to use it as a surrogate for the second threat discussed in the GQM-163A Coyote Validation Report. The results of the engineering analysis will inform the Coyote alteration to provide targets for IOT&E of the Aegis Modernization program in FY17 as well as the Aegis DDG Flight III program in FY23. The estimated cost of the analysis is $3 Million. Estimated cost for alteration of existing Coyotes is $150 Thousand per target for 12 targets, or $1.8 Million total. Four targets (two primary plus two backups) would be for the Aegis Modernization IOT&E, and eight targets (four primary plus four backups) would be for the Aegis DDG Flight III IOT&E.”

FY 2010 – 2013

French Coyote SSST Launch

Levant launch
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Sept 5/13: FRP-7. A $29.9 million firm-fixed-price contract for Lot 7 production of 8 GQM-163A Coyote SSST base vehicles, including the associated hardware, kits and production support, for the U.S. Navy (5/ $19.5M/ 65%), and the governments of Australia (2/ $7.1M/ 24%) and Japan (1/ $3.3M/ 11%). All funds are committed immediately.

Work will be performed in Chandler, AZ (59%); Camden, AR (28%); Vergennes, VT (4%); Hollister, CA (3%); and other various locations in the United States (6%), and is expected to be complete in September 2016. This contract was not competitively procured pursuant to FAR 6.302-1 (N00019-13-C-0145).

Aug 30/13: Australian use. The GQM-163 is used as part of final Operational Acceptance Trials for the ANZAC Class frigate Anti-Ship Missile Defence (ASMD) program, with HMAS Perth firing RIM-116 ESSM missiles as the Coyote’s opponent. Source: Australia DoD FotoWeb.

Australian use

Aug 29/12: FRP-6. A $26.4 million firm-fixed-price contract for the GQM-163A Coyote’s Full Rate Production Lot 6 (FRP-VI) base vehicles, associated hardware, kits and production support. Based on past orders, we’re probably looking at another 7 SSSTs.

Work will be performed in a Chandler, AZ (71%); Camden, AR (24%); Vergennes, VT (3%); and Hollister, CA (2%), and is expected to be complete in June 2015. This contract was not competitively procured pursuant to FAR 6.302-1 (N00019-12-C-0061).

April 4/12: French fires. A GQM-163 launched from the Mediterranean island of Levant is used as a supersonic target for France’s high-end air defense ship FS Forbin, which shoots it down using an MBDA Aster-30 missile. Her sister ship, FS Chevalier Paul, tracks the target and the missiles fired.

The test concludes a Foreign Military Sale case that began in 2006, involving France’s DGA, the US Navy Aerial Target and Decoy Systems program office (PMA-208) and Orbital Sciences Corporation (OSC) of Chandler, AZ. The foreign military sale included just 1 GQM-163A SSST, plus lease of support equipment and range integration (vid. March 10/07 entry).

FS Forbin is called a frigate, but its D620 designation denotes a destroyer, which is appropriate for her size. She’s 1 of 2 Horizon Class ships that form the upper tier of French naval air and missile defense capabilities. DGA [in French] | US NAVAIR.

March 31/11: FRP-5. A $26.2 million firm-fixed-price contract for GQM-163A Coyote Full Rate Production Lot 5: just 7 SSST base vehicles, including associated hardware, kits and production support.

Work will be performed in Chandler, AZ (71%); Camden, AZ (24%); Vergennes, VT (3%); and Hollister, CA (2%), and is expected to be complete in March 2011. This contract was not competitively procured, pursuant to FAR 6.302-1 (N00019-11-C-0050).

Aug 13/10: High Diver. The first flight test of the Coyote SSST High Diver variant was successful. During the naval test at San Nicolas Island, CA, the Coyote High Diver vehicle was rail-launched from the ground, then boosted by its Variable Flow Ducted Rocket (VFDR) solid rocket motor to ramjet-takeover speed. It ascended to 35,000 feet and Mach 3.3 cruise under ramjet power, and executed the planned 40-degree unpowered dive to its objective point near the ocean’s surface at the end of its 110 mile journey.

Aerojet’s VFDR is also used in the original SSST configuration, but the CQM-163 needed guidance software modifications that let it operate at altitudes up to 50,000 feet.

There are cruise missiles that execute supersonic pop up and dive attacks at the end of their flight, but not from 50,000 feet and not usually at shallow trajectories. Anti-ship ballistic missile like China’s Dong Feng 21D, on the other hand, may have just found their target analogue. Aerojet.

June 28/10: FRP-4. A $26.4 million firm-fixed-price, fixed-price-incentive-fee contract for the full-rate production of 7 GQM-163A Coyote supersonic sea-skimming target vehicles, associated hardware, and kits.

Work will be performed in Chandler, AZ (67%); Camden, AR (26%); Vergennes, VT (4%); and Hollister, CA (3%). Work is expected to be complete in January 2013. Contract funds in the amount of $93,816 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was not competitively procured, pursuant to FAR 6.302-2 (N00019-10-C-0063).

Jan 12/10: Orbital Sciences Launch Systems Group in Chandler, AZ received a $10.4 million cost-plus-fixed-fee, indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract for GQM-163A aerial target operations and maintenance services in support of Naval Air Station (NAS) Point Mugu, CA, and the Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF) in Barking Sands, Hawaii.

Work will be performed at NAS Point Mugu, CA (40%); Chandler, AZ (40%); and PMRF Barking Sands, Hawaii (20%). Work is expected to be complete in December 2012. This contract was not competitively procured by the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division in Point Mugu, CA (N68936-10-D-0012).

FY 2000 – 2009

GQM-163A Coyote Concept

Coyote concept
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May 28/09: FRP-3. Orbital Sciences Corp. in Chandler, AZ received a $41.8 million modification to a previously awarded fixed-price-incentive-fee contract (N00019-07-C-0031) for full-rate production of 14 GQM-163A SSST targets, including associated hardware, kits, booster kits and sustaining engineering.

Orbital Sciences will perform the work in Chandler (98%); and South Bend, IN (2%) and expects to complete it in March 2012.

FRP-8 includes Japan

August 2008: MSST. The US Navy announces that Alliant Techsystems (ATK) had won the separate GQM-173 MSST competition.

Jan 24/08: MSST. Jane’s International Defense Review reports that US Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) has extended the deadline for bids on the Multi-Stage Supersonic Target (MSST) program until Feb 11/08, from the original January 28/08 deadline.

Note that the MSST is a separate program designed to address the USN’s emergent requirement for a cost-effective aerial target system to simulate a multistage anti-ship cruise missile known as Threat D. That missile is Russia’s 3M54E Klub-S (SS-N-27 Sizzler), a subsonic cruise missile with a supersonic terminal stage capable of evasive maneuvers.

Sept 25/07: FRP-2. A $37.4 million modification to a previously awarded fixed-price-incentive-fee contract, covering 13 GQM-163A supersonic sea skimming vehicles, including support equipment, spare parts, technical data, and technical assistance.

Work will be performed in Chandler, AZ (25%); Camden, AR (25%); Sacramento, CA (20%); Dulles, VA (5%); Ft. Walton Beach, FL (5%); Lancaster, PA (5%); Vergennes, VT (5%); Gainesville, VA (5%), South Bend, IN (3%); and Indian Head, MD (2%), and is expected to be complete in March 2010. Contract funds in the amount of $1,020,727 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The DefenseLINK entry was corrected on Sept 27/07 (N00019-07-C-0031).

Orbital Sciences’ subsequent release adds that total orders for the program currently stand at 61 units (including the early development vehicles), of which 19 have either been launched or delivered to the customer.

March 20/07: French order. Orbital Sciences Corp. in Chandler, AZ received a $9.2 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for the procurement of one (1) GQM-163A ‘Coyote’ SSST Vehicle, support equipment, spare parts, technical data, and technical assistance for the government of France under the Foreign Military Sales Program. The GQM-163A will support the validation of a French weapons system – exactly which system was not specified until later.

Work will be performed in Chandler AZ (27%); Ile du Levant, France (18%); Orlando, FL (15%); Philadelphia, PA (15%); Manchester, NH (15%); Dulles, VA (5%); and Indian Head, MD (5%), and is expected to be complete in September 2008. This contract was not competitively procured (N00019-07-C-0031).

Orbital expects to carry out that launch late in 2009.

French order

Feb 13/06: FRP-1. Orbital Sciences Corporation announces that that it has received the first full production order from Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR), at Patuxent River Naval Air Station, MD for 19 GQM-163A “Coyote” Supersonic Sea-Skimming Target (SSST) missiles. This is the program’s first full-rate production contract, and covers 19 production vehicles. The total contract value of this production order is estimated to be in excess of $20 million.

Including a previously awarded low-rate initial production order (LRIP) of 20 vehicles, Orbital says it is now under firm contract to build and deliver a total of 39 vehicles through early 2008, of which 4 vehicles have already been delivered to the Navy. In addition, 6 previously delivered vehicles were launched in the test program from 2003 – 2005. Orbital Sciences release.

Full-Rate Production begins

April 13/05: LRIP-2. Orbital Sciences Corp. in Chandler, AZ received a $12.5 million modification to a previously awarded cost-plus-incentive-fee contract to exercise an option for 10 GQM-163A Supersonic Sea Skimming Targets (SSST). Work will be performed in Chandler, AZ, and is expected to be complete in April 2007. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, MD manages the contract (N00019-00-C-0255).

Nov 5/01: LRIP-1. Orbital Sciences Corp. in Chandler, AZ received an $8 million modification, exercising an option to a previously awarded cost-plus-incentive-fee contract for 10 GQM-163 supersonic sea skimming targets, ancillary equipment, ground and flight testing and testing support and associated data.

Work will be performed in Gainesville, VA (34%); Chandler, AZ (33%); and Wichita, KS (33%), and is expected to be complete in September 2003 (N00019-00-C-0255).

Low-Rate Production begins

April 22/05: Testing. Orbital Sciences successfully flight-tests the final GQM-163A “Coyote” Supersonic Sea-Skimming Target (SSST) development vehicle for US Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR). SpaceWar

June 29/2000: EMD. Orbital Sciences Corp. Launch Systems Group in Chandler, AZ won a $34.2 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract for 6 supersonic sea skimming target engineering development models, ground and flight testing and testing support.

Work will be performed in Chandler, AZ (41%); Gainesville, VA (30%); Wichita, KS (28%); and Tucson, AZ (1%), and is expected to be complete by May 2003. Contract funds in the amount of $8 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured through an electronic request for proposals and 2 offers were received by the Naval Air Systems Command at Patuxent River, MD (N00019-00-C-0255).

Development phase

Additional Readings

* Orbital – Short-Range Targets

* US Navy NAVAIR, PMA 208 – Target Systems :: GQM-163A

* Designation Systems – Orbital Sciences GQM-163 Coyote.

* Sacramento Business Journal (March 17/07) – Jet maker set for take off: Composite Engineering expects a new Air Force order in weeks. The order in question actually covers the BQM-167 “Skeeter”.

* Spacewar.com (April 27/05) – Final Developmental Flight For US Navy’s Coyote Target Missile Completed Copy of Orbital Sciences April 26th release.

* NewsMax, via WayBack (Sept 9/04) – Missile Madness. Discusses the technical and political issues surrounding the MA-31 target drone, which was derived from the Kh-31 Krypton. Did US engineers fix a Russian missile’s problems just before it was exported to China? Ironically, follow-up reports indicate that a full production deal for the MA-31 drone may have been choked by the Russian Defense Ministry for reasons of “national security.”

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