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Navy suspends some drone operations after cruiser hit

Nov. 20, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
A screen shot of a video taken by a San Diego TV station shows the spot where a drone struck the cruiser Chancellorsville during a targeting exercise.
A screen shot of a video taken by a San Diego TV station shows the spot where a drone struck the cruiser Chancellorsville during a targeting exercise. (Courtesy of NBC 7)
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A BQM-74E drone, similiar to the one involved in the incident, is ready for launch during a 2010 exercise. (FC2 Roberto Ruvalcaba/Navy)
A screen shot from a video taken by a San Diego news station shows where a drone struck the cruiser Chancellorsville. (Courtesy of NBC 7 San Diego)

The Navy has suspended target drone exercises in the wake of Saturday’s mishap where a drone punctured the hull of cruiser Chancellorsville during a tracking exercise off Naval Base Ventura County, Point Mugu, Calif., officials confirmed.

An unnamed official with the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division told the Ventura County Star newspaper that officials suspended all operations involving the BQM-74E drone, the type that drilled a hole into Chancellorsville’s port side, as well as the BQM-34S drone, which uses the same control system.

The targeting drone operations are suspended Navy-wide while the investigation continues, a NAWCWD spokeswoman confirmed Wednesday to Navy Times.

“The Navy will take the necessary time to complete a thorough investigation to understand the cause of the malfunction,” Melissa Finnell, NAWCWD spokeswoman, said in an email response to questions. “Until then, operations are suspended.”

The suspension comes as investigators determine what caused the target drone to crash at high speed into the Chancellorsville, an accident that left two sailors with minor burns treated on board. The incident has raised questions about the safety of the targeting drone operations used to test ship’s radar, gun and missile systems.

It is believed to be the most serious mishap involving a target drone in three decades, since the Feb. 10, 1983, incident when splinters from an incoming drone struck the frigate Antrim, setting off a fire that killed a civilian professor on board.

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