The Coyote has been around for a while and it proved to be an important asset for the Navy. It was back in 2003 when this sea-skimming target vehicles was developed by Northrop Grumman and conducted its first flight. These types of target vehicles are used for practice, so that warships can learn the best ways to detect and destroy supersonic anti-ship missiles.
Basically, these targets mimic advanced missiles, so that the Navy can develop the best anti-missile defense practices. The Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) at the Patuxent River Naval Air Station, in Maryland, is in charge of the Coyote target vehicle program.
The GQM-163A target incorporates a solid-fuel rocket propulsion system and high performance avionics, so that it can be successfully used in various combat scenarios. A versatile target vehicle, the Coyote can be used as a sea-skimming target or as a diving one.
Modern supersonic sea-skimming missiles are capable of flying close to the water surface, at such high speed that it’s difficult for ships to detect and counteract them. The Coyote can simulate that, by flying at 12 ft. (3.5 meters) off the water surface, at a Mach 2.5+ speed. But it’s also capable of emulating high-altitude missile attacks, where it dives towards the ship from as high as 52,000 ft. (15,800 meters), flying at Mach 3.5+.
More than 120 GQM-163A target vehicles have been delivered so far, and Northrop Grumman has successfully launched them 81 times.