Home » Aviation » Damage Assessment Still Underway After Target Drone Collision with Navy Cruiser

Damage Assessment Still Underway After Target Drone Collision with Navy Cruiser

An image of guided missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville (CG-62) following a collision with a BGM-74 target drone on Saturday. The impact area is circled. NBC 7 San Diego Image/U.S. Naval Institute photo illustration

An image of guided missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville (CG-62) following a collision with a BGM-74 target drone on Saturday. The impact area is circled. NBC 7 San Diego Image/U.S. Naval Institute photo illustration

Engineers with U.S. Navy are still tallying the damage caused when a 13-foot target drone punched a three to four foot hole in the side of guided missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville (CG-62) on Saturday, Navy officials told USNI News on Tuesday.

Footage from NBC 7 San Diego showed a ragged hole in the ship just aft of the forecastle in the port side of Chancellorsville’s superstructure while the ship was in port at Naval Station San Diego, Calif on Monday.

The collision affected “some internal spaces,” of Chancellorsville, though officials would not specify which spaces were damaged. The point of impact is near the ship’s Command Information Center (CIC), one of the best-armored and most sensitive areas of the ship, as well as the control room for the Aegis radar system.

The Northrop Grumman BQM-74 target drone hit the ship about 1:25 PST on Saturday during a, “tracking exercise during an air tracking event,” resulting in “minor injuries to two sailors,” according to Navy officials.

The crew of the Chancellorsville — armed with the Navy’s most advanced Aegis weapon systems — was performing a Combat System Ship Qualification Trials (CSSQT) to asses the installation of the ship’s Baseline 9 Aegis combat system.

The Navy conducts CSSQT (colloquially called C-Squat) for new ships or ships that have undergone a complex weapon systems refit.

During the test, according to the Navy, the operator of the BQM-74 — used to simulate missiles or aircraft — lost control of the drone before it punctured the ship.

The Navy did not confirm if the ship’s crew attempted to employ the ship’s self-defense systems to protect the ship from the errant drone.

Chancellorsville fields two Phalanx Close-in Weapon Systems (CIWS) designed to intercept and destroy threats close to the ship. The two 20mm Gatling guns paired with radar detect and track low flying targets heading toward the ship.

Depending on the type of training, the crew may not have been required to arm the CIWS defenses.

The flight plans of BQM-74s are typically built with a so-called offset that in the event of the loss of control of the target, the drone would not pass close enough to endanger the ship.

BQM-74s have long been in the Navy inventory and serve as targets for the Standard Missiles as part of the Aegis systems. The target drones are not autonomous and are controlled and tracked by personnel at ground stations. BQM-74s would not typically used as targets for the CIWS defenses as the risk of striking the ship would be too high.

The target crash into Chancellorsville is not the first time a safety offset of a BQM-74 target has failed.

During a CSSQT for guided missile destroyer USS Russell (DDG-59) in 1995, an errant BQM-74 was destroyed by the ship’s CIWS during a live-fire missile shoot that was intended to test the ship’s surface-to-air Standard Missile and Aegis combat system.

  • eper090643

    Hate to see what would happen if that had been a LIVE weapon.

  • philp222

    Information Dissemination is reporting that the ships CWIS did in fact engage the rogue drone… And failed.

    • dudeman

      The ships defense systems are not on or radiating in port. Do to rad haz. If it where out at sea Spy would have picked up the track and engaged the target with an SM or CIWSwould have engaged the target.

      • xsquid99

        This didn’t happen in port, this ship was underway for a track ex.

  • vincedc

    An unarmed drone punched a hole near the
    control of the ship. Maybe we need to look at our armor

  • Gus

    Enjoy reading all the comments, especially the one about a relook at adding SOME armor to ours ships. Hope this does not cause the Navy to request Congressional permission to decommission the ship early due to this damage. Already early decommissioning 21 combat ships over the next two years with only a couple additions to the fleet.

  • TheScrutineer

    As a former CIWS technician I can say with near certainty that both CIWS mounts would have been loaded with live rounds but the likelihood of those mounts having been in a ready mode (I.E. AAW Manual or AAW auto) is highly unlikely. As the system lacks the ability to interrogate tracks it will engage ANYTHING that meets engagement criteria. For this reason alone it is only moded up SPARINGLY. This was true here off the coast as well as in the gulf during the war. On the ship I was stationed on we took part in drone shoots as well (both remote like the BGM and towed) and the BGM, being a rather pricy item with no explosive payload, is generally not used for anything other medium to long range missile engagements. I believe it was deemed too dangerous to use for phalanx engagements as the 20mm penetrators lack the destruvtive power to sufficiently atomize an aircraft at those super close ranges but you don’t need much more than one round striking an explosive payload on an anti-ship missile to do the trick. Whether or not the CO of the cruiser or the squadron commander were aware of the impending collision in the moments leading up to it, or whether or not the decision to engage the drone simply came too late is, imho, the real question here. I’m willing to bet that both mounts were never moded up past Air Ready in which case it’s radar antennas were never even emitting in the first place.

    • DesertSquid

      Had the same thing nearly happen to my ship in CSSQT in the early 90’s.

      Our CIWS was loaded, and in ready mode.

      It was what shot down the BQM. Our mounts had target kills painted on them. One mount had 3 towed drone kills, the other mount had two towed and one BQM stencil on it.

  • Nik

    Ох лол
    Вся суть американской армии.
    вышли на учения вроде:
    – гатлинги не зарядили;
    – корабельную систему ПВО (которую и испытывали) не включили;
    – учебная ракета мимо полетела;

    Один плюс только выявлен – в случае чего можно учебными ракетами отстреливаться, они вражеские корабли могут продырявить ниже ватерлинии.

    • Bruce Durgess

      which Google translator says:

      “Oh lol
      The whole essence of the American army.
      took to teaching like:
      – Gatling not charged;
      – The ship’s air defense system (which was tested and) not included;
      – Training missile flew past;

      One plus is only revealed – in which case you can shoot missiles training, they can make a hole in the enemy ships below the waterline.”

    • bee bop

      Careful, the Russians are watching everything.

  • Electronpusher7

    If you can’t hit the drone how can you hit the real thing? If this HAD been the real thing this ship would have been lost.

    • B_frm_SoJersey

      More than likely the CIWS crew was not instructed to have the system at the ready for an emergency like that…however someone is sure doing a lot of explainin’

  • tjb357452

    30 million to fix that hole ? Seems outrageously expensive, unless there’s a lot of damage to the ship’s operating systems. It does raise questions about the design’s ability to sustain damage in an engagement, and the ship company’s ability to defend itself. Somebody’s in a heap of trouble.

  • PJ London

    If you just pop down to our local body repair shop, they will do it 3 days and charge about $2000.
    Check with the navy insurance for excess amount.

  • John Reece

    I wouldn’t want to be the FC LCPO in that Chief’s Mess.

  • bee bop

    As a kid back in the late 50’s I had an 18′ Grumman canoe. If I remember correctly the tensile strength of its aircraft aluminum make-up was rated at 80,000 psi(MPa of 552, approx.). You did not say how fast the drone was traveling when it attacked the Chancellorsville, but conservation of energy equation is usually recognized as 1/2MV(squared). Now make the comparison of that impact with the character of that Grumman aluminum canoe. Looking at the ASTM B928 for Marine Aluminum used in the CG-47 program, I didn’t see any test results exceeding 300 MPa. That canoe wouldn’t survive a strike by that BQM-74, either, but it would appear to at least have wrapped around it.

    Additionally, the impact area is similar to the double Exocet missile impacts on the USS Stark in the Persian Gulf many years back. One missile exploded nearly sinking the Stark and the other failed to explode but penetrated the hull burning to death all hands in the FC spaces with its rocket motor which continued to burn after penetration. Lesson learned?