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QinetiQ Demos New Uncrewed Aerial Targets in New Mexico Tests

Rattler Supersonic Target

QinetiQ has completed flight tests on the first two uncrewed aerial targets it is developing for the U.S. Department of Defense under the High Energy Laser Measurement Rattler program and a company-funded research and development project.

The Rattler Supersonic Target tests were conducted at the White Sands Missile Range’s High Energy Laser Systems Test Facility in southern New Mexico. According to QinetiQ, the activity not only collected the first data for the new Rattler ST variant but also enabled testing opportunities on the HELSTF Tracking Illuminating Laser System’s short-range capabilities on a supersonic target.

To support DOD’s HELM program, the company customized the uncrewed aerial target by integrating a third-party board for measuring high-energy laser characteristics in supersonic flights. The program, budgeted for $10 million, started in February 2022 and is for completion in mid-2024.

QinetiQ said Rattler ST is designed as a cost-effective supersonic target platform mimicking various advanced missile threats and is geared for operational training and system evaluation.

A solid-propellant rocket motor powers the uncrewed aerial target that can reach over Mach 2.5 air launch speeds and execute corkscrew and weave maneuvers. The target is made from non-toxic materials, posing no environmental hazard after its flight’s termination.   

Graham Ollis, QinetiQ’s managing director for threat representation, viewed the tests as “an important milestone in the Rattler transition to service project” to meet developing threats. Owen Price, QinetiQ’s target systems project manager, also expressed pride in the “significant progress” the company has made with its partners and customers in the flight tests that demonstrated QinetiQ’s teamwork and expertise.

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