Target Drone Crashes Into Navy Cruiser

Authorities and Navy officials are investigating the cause of an accident this past Saturday off the coast of Southern California wherein a small unmanned aircraft system crashed into a Navy cruiser, the USS Chancellorsville, service officials confirmed.

The drone was being used as part of a training exercise when it malfunctioned above the surface, crashing down into the ship, according to the Los Angeles Times. 

Two sailors suffered minor burns in the incident, Navy officials told the paper.

Sailors aboard the ship were using the drone to test the ship’s radar tracking system. The USS Chancellorsville is an Aegis cruiser meaning it is equipped with ballistic missile defense technology, including radar. The crew of the ship was performing what’s called Combat System Ship Qualification Trials, according to the U.S. Naval Institute News.

The damaged ship is now on its way back to San Diego for further analysis, the Los Angeles Times reports.

The 13-foot target drone is a Northrop Grumman BMQ-74 hit areas near the ship’s Command Information Center, or CIC, according to U.S. Naval Institute News. The CIC is one of the most armored areas of the ship as it houses the control room for the Aegis radar system, USNI stated.

The operator of the BQM-74 lost control of the drone during the test before it struck the ship, USNI added.

About the Author

Kris Osborn
Kris Osborn is the managing editor of Scout Warrior and a former associate editor at
  • octopusmagnificens

    “It was the machines, Sarah”.

  • Big-B

    Its not skynet, its murphys law.

    Good to read only two sailors with minor injuries. Didnt know these ships are so well armoured. Get well soon.

    I know it was just a test and probably it was not planned to shoot down the BMQ-74 but wasnt there enought time between “looking good” and the “oops incoming” to kill it with CIWS?

    • Scott Robinson

      This was a trackex. CIWS would be tagged out so it is not accidentally fired.

    • ike

      What? Well armored? The Ticonderoga cruisers are not armored. That’s why even a small light drone like BMQ-74 can punch a hole. An Exocet would have gone all the way in and gutted half of the superstructure.

  • john

    CIWS would not normally be loade4d at this time.

    • Talosian

      o.k., but maybe this incident provides a reason to review the s.o.p.
      - having loaded CIWS switched on would have likely prevented the damage.

  • frank

    Better, faster, cheaper…whoops.

    • ike

      What are you talking about? The Ticonderoga? It’s not better, nor faster, nor cheaper.

  • blight_…

    Anyone know if the CIWS would have been loaded but locked out, or locked out /and/ unloaded for safety reasons?

    The drone missed its turn and smacked into the CG.

    • TomUK…

      • blight_

        That link got posted to Wikipedia’s Phalanx CIWS page…it would be embarrassing if CIWS did fire on the target and failed to bring it down.

      • ike

        What? The Ticon is world’s most advanced ship? Who said that and when? None of the US naval surface combatants has a reliable defense in a serious naval shootout, especially when the incoming missiles are supersonic.

        • blight_

          Nobody has a good solution for supersonic missiles. Soviet Navy was prepared to throw waves of nuclear supersonic missiles and torpedoes at us during the Cold War. We’ve had that long to put together an effective defense.

          Not sure if we’ve really tested supersonic weapons. A drone flying at mach 2 (let alone Mach 3) would’ve smacked the CG-62 very, very painfully if it missed its turn.

  • Dfens

    Lucky for us the remotely controlled aircraft was not a weapon. Imagine the damage it could have inflicted if it were. Perhaps if we made our naval vessels with even thinner skins they’d be able to add another knot or so to their top speed at the cost of being able to defend themselves from “drone attacks”.

    • ike

      LOL. There is a better solution: Don’t ever get into a naval battle against a modern foe, or one who has a lot of anti-ship missiles.

  • AJH

    No, CIWS would not have been loaded. See USS Antrim and USS El Paso ShootEXs in the ’80s. Live fire CIWS has a good chance for blowback and collateral damage. Because of those and other incidents, a Live Fire Operation is well-planned in advance, and there is no call to activate or prep mounts unless it’s absolutely called for.

    • Talosian

      Interesting. Thanks.

  • TonyC.

    The drone lost communications near a ABM capable ship, probably was jammed by mistake.

    • Scott Robinson

      Nope, just lost RF command link.

    • Mark

      My thinking exactly…

  • ASME

    The BQM-74 is not a ‘drone’. It is a target Pt Mugu routinely uses during exercises and tests.

    • blight_

      It’s a target drone. Sadly, everything that doesn’t have a fleshy pilot is a “drone” these days.

  • Riceball

    It wasn’t an accident, it was those sneaky Iranians at it again, they tried to hack this drone to get it to fly to them and it didn’t work. Or maybe it was the Chinese. :D

    • ike

      Not the Iranians nor the CHinese. They already know that these tin cans are sitting ducks for their anti-ship missiles. That’s why the Navy hasn’t done a thing after Iran called their bluffs.

  • Clint Notestine

    should zigged when they zagged

  • ken

    Every time a missiles hits a US warship the Phalanx is turned off……

    • ike

      Not just Phalanx. The radar, the AWACS, even the phones if necessary.

      • Rest Pal

        The NFL and college football are more important than the stupid old target drone test. Make love, not war, while you are on a cruise ship.

    • Rest Pal

      I’m sure it’s just a coincidence. HaHaHa.

  • old

    62 was the newjersey i didnt know we reused the numbers on our ships

    • orly?

      USS New Jersey BB-62 is different than USS Chancellorsville CG-62.

      Note the designations.

    • blight_

      The Navy has re-used names as long as ships have had names, and numbers since they started numbering ships.

      ACR-1, USS Maine (of “Remember the Maine” fame)
      BB-1, USS Indiana
      CV-1, USS Langley
      DD-1, USS Bainbridge

  • bulldurham48

    Don’t worry, we have plenty of money to do the repairs with and oh bye the way the 2 men will recover. Again money wasted on the new future fly boys who wear plaid suits. If these clowns had to pay for all the damage they did or all the lives they destroyed or messed up there would be a lot less of the playing with Drones and more time spent on worthwhile endeavors. But of course the defense contractors would not make as many millions and the congressmen and women involved would not receive as much money in their re=election funds or private bank accounts and the poor lobbyist would not get their millions and again the congress folks would not again get more money from the lobbyist. Stop all congressional campaign donations by anyone in the defense industry or associated businesses and of course the poor lobbyist, who are also out of office politicians. A vicious circle of greed, fraud and stealing around and around it goes.

  • CaptainObvious

    Chances are Phalanx failed, this is a cover-up.

  • Don Woodrum

    The USS Chancellorsville is an Aegis cruiser meaning it is equipped with ballistic missile defense technology,

    The Aegis system cannot defend against a Ballistic Missile, nor defend a Battle Group against a BLM. The Ageis can defend against other type missile attacks,
    but NOT a missile that is considered Ballistic Missile.

    • CaptainObvious

      LMAO? What other types of missiles?

  • Rest Pal

    Has anyone noticed how ugly the Ticonderoga looks? Wouldn’t it be better to have them sunk so that you can order some newer, better looking ships like the Chinese 052D destroyer?

    • Tom Clancy, Jr.

      Sorry, “Rest Pal”, but I must disagree….
      I think the Tico-class has some interesting, attractive ships.
      I admit that those big “cubes” holding the Aegis systems look kinda funny on a Navy ship, but I like the looks of them. Kind of “improbable” looking. Like, who’d design a ship like that? Not trying to start an argument, just sayin’….
      I think the Tico-class looks cool, that’s all….
      (Have a great weekend!….)….

  • Mark

    I wonder if when you turn the RADAR trackers on if it jams the aircraft controls? Hmmm….

  • John mccian

    PMA 208 created this problem by picking a old radio frequency that any ham operator can jam to control the target. Never learn from past frequency problems and you will repeat them.

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  • know the truth

    bqm-74e are programed to go in to recovery mode after they lose signal with the ground station or if commanded by ground crew if they notice the drone is not responding to flight control inputs. At that point it picthes up in order to gain altitude and bleed off speed it then deploys a chute and falls back to the ground or ocean. My guess someone was not paying attention to the flight path and flew the drone into the side of the ship, I have seen more than one end up where it was not suppose to be.