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Orbital launches 25th Coyote Sea-Skimming Target missile

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A May 2004 test launch image of 'Coyote' target. Photo by US Navy.

DULLES, VIRGINIA (BNS): Orbital Sciences Corporation recently carried out the 25th launch of its Coyote supersonic sea-skimming target (SSST) vehicle for the US Navy.

The latest mission was conducted from Hawaii, during which two Coyotes were rail-launched from the coast, executed their planned flight pattern and were successfully engaged by a US Navy ship.

Orbital said in a statement that it successfully supported the Navy’s ongoing ship self-defence exercises in the launch of the Coyote missiles, known as a "stream raid."

"The Coyote programme has matured from an early development programme, through low-rate production and test, to now being a fully operational system that provides a critical capability to the Navy for their ship self-defense exercises using a very capable target vehicle," said Ron Grabe, Orbital’s Executive Vice President.

"As further evidence of its operational status, we will soon support our first international mission when we participate in a defensive exercise with the French Navy.

The Coyote is a low-cost and highly effective target capable of supporting important naval exercises not only for the US Navy, but for allied naval forces as well," said Ron, who is also General Manager of its Launch Systems Group.

The target missile design integrates a four-inlet, solid-fuel ducted-rocket ramjet propulsion system into a compact missile airframe 18 feet long and 14 inches in diameter.

Ramjet supersonic takeover speed is achieved using a decommissioned Navy MK 70 solid rocket motor for the first stage.

Rail-launched from naval test and training ranges, the highly maneuverable Coyote achieves cruise speeds of over Mach 2.5 following the separation of the MK 70 first-stage booster.

The range of the target vehicle system is approximately 50 nautical miles at altitudes of less than 20 feet above the sea surface, according to the statement.

Orbital also has designed and flight-tested a "high-diver" variant of the Coyote missile. During the flight test, the vehicle achieved an altitude of 35,000 feet, travelled at Mach 3.3 and approached its target point at a 40-degree downward angle.  

Total orders for the programme currently stand at 89 units (including the early test and development vehicles), of which 53 have been delivered to the customer.

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