Warplanes: They Are Still Expendable


February 19, 2011: The U.S. Navy has ordered another 40 BQM-167 jet UAVs for air-to-air combat training. Costing about $900,000 each, the BQM-167 is a one ton, single engine aircraft that is 6.1 meters (20 feet) long, with a 3.4 meter (11 foot) wingspan. Max speed is about 1,000 kilometers an hour, and the carbon fiber composite airframe can handle 9 g turns. Launched via a rocket from a rail, the UAV lands via parachute. Max altitude is 16 kilometers (50,000 feet) and minimum is 16 meters (50 feet).

The BQM-167 can stay aloft three hours per sortie. Equipped with GPS, the ground based operator maneuvers the BQM-167 to provide realistic targets for air force or navy missile carrying aircraft, or U.S. Army Patriot anti-aircraft missiles. Most of the time, the weapons operators just use the UAV to ensure that they can track and precisely locate an aerial target. But sometimes, the missiles themselves are tested, and the UAV is fired on. In some of these situations, the UAV is equipped with countermeasures (like chaff or flares or electronic jammers) and will also maneuver as a manned aircraft would.

With the new order, some 250 BQM-167s will be in service or in production. The BQM-167 replaced the smaller and slower MQM-107, which entered service in the late 1970s. Some 2,200 MQM-107s were produced until production ceased in 2003.



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