The Pacific Target and Marine Operations division launched its 200th BQM-177 flight on April 2 from China Lake. 

Symphony in motion: PTMO marks milestone 200th BQM-177 launch

In April, a BQM-177 subscale, high subsonic aerial target launched in support of operations at Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division’s China Lake Range, but it wasn’t just any launch. It was number 200 for the Pacific Target and Marine Operations team.

It was also a massive endeavor requiring a huge cross-site, cross-functional coordination challenge. A symphony working together in harmony.

And if this test event was a symphony, the test managers were the conductors.

“Test managers at the China Lake Range orchestrated the integration of multiple complex resources into a unified event execution,” said Laura Paganucci, CLR’s chief operating officer. She noted that it took meticulous planning and seamless collaboration among teams from across NAWCWD at both China Lake and Point Mugu.

“In intricate test scenarios like those involving BQMs, teamwork is essential in ensuring a smooth and successful event,” she explained.

The event itself – presenting BQM-177 targets for a live-fire event – resulted in an 11-minute flight, but it took weeks to plan. And continuing the symphony metaphor, there are several “first chair” experts making the music.

Experts like Operations Conductor Abby White, who explained that coordinating range dates, equipment inspections and logistical considerations – the targets involved “live” in Point Mugu, California, nearly 200 miles away from CLR – as well as mission planning and range safety reviews are all critical.

“As an OC you are responsible for the success of the operation, but first and foremost is the safety in the execution,” White said. Flight planning, hazard analysis, mitigation controls, and close, constant communication are just the starting point.

And when it’s time to perform, the whole orchestra must be on the beat.

The remote control operator is sending commands from a control room, and will fly the target during the exercise, but the BQM-177 on the launch pad requires on-site preparation and operational checks. The Direct Control Officer and pad crew on site verify that the commands are received and loads any ordnance – in this case rocket-assisted take-offs.

Once the target is launched and flying, if any anomalies arise, it is up to the operations conductor to make split-second decisions on how to overcome them. That sort of responsibility requires a lot of training. White, with a full two years of experience as an operations conductor, is still considered to be “under instruction,” working with her trainer Nick Yniguez every step of the way.

The 200th flight went smoothly, without a sour note. That’s unsurprising, noted Kevin Gross, the Threat Target Systems Department head.

“This is a great, knowledgeable team, all operating toward a single goal: supporting the warfighter and delivering capabilities to the fleet,” he said. They exemplify the open communication, collaboration, and trust in one another that we know makes teams better, more effective, and ultimately successful in everything they do.”



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