Directory of U.S. Military Rockets and Missiles
Appendix 4: Undesignated Vehicles
Copyright © 2006-2024 Andreas Parsch

Raytheon Coyote

In 2004, the U.S. Navy's Office of Naval Research (ONR) drafted a specification for an SL-UAV (Sonochute-Launched Unmanned Aerial Vehicle). This was to be an expendable vehicle, which could be stored in and launched from a standard airborne sonobuoy dispenser. The SL-UAV's primary mission is to provide P-3C Orion patrol aircraft with a standoff surveillance capability. Advanced Ceramics Research Inc. was awarded a NAVAIR (Naval Air Systems Command) contract, and developed the Coyote UAV to satisfy the SL-UAV requirement.

Photo: Advanced Ceramics Research

The Coyote comes packed in a canister, which can be launched from standard sonobuoy dispensers. Once the canister has been ejected from the dispenser, a parachute deploys and the canister is drawn away from the airframe. Then the UAV's two pairs of wings, the twin vertical tails and the propeller blades are extended, the small electric motor is started, and the autopilot initiates a pull-up manoeuver. The vehicle is equipped with a GPS-based navigation system to fly completely automatic missions, but can also be controlled via a line-of-sight datalink. The original Coyote's sensors were either a digital video camera or an uncooled infrared camera. The Coyote is regarded as an expendable asset, and therefore has to be very cheap in mass production.

A first flight of a Coyote occurred in 2007, when it was launched from a C-12 aircraft. Since 2014, the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) is using the Coyote from its WP-3D aircraft to gather real-time atmospheric data inside Hurricane systems.

Photo: Raytheon
Coyote Block 1

Current prime contractor for Coyote is Raytheon, after a series of company take-overs of the former Advanced Ceramics Research assets. The first major improvement was new communications equipment to significantly enhance the range of the line-of-sight control link. Coyote can also be ground-launched, in which case it uses a pneumatic tube launcher. Probably the most significant development is that Raytheon has enabled Coyote to be used as a loitering munition, by adding a kinetic warhead option. So equipped, the UAV can be used to actually take out an enemy asset after finding it on an ISR mission. As part of ONR's LOCUST (Low-Cost UAV Swarming Technology) program, Raytheon also demonstrated a "swarming" capability with Coyote, where several UAVs operate together autonomously as a "team". The current version, which is based on the original Coyote design, is usually called Coyote Block 1.

Since about 2017, the U.S. Air Force, Army and Marines all used the Coyote UAV as the base to develop a so-called C-UAS (Counter Unmanned Air System), to defend troops against small drones. The Army version uses a 1.8 kg (4 lb) blast-fragmentation warhead. In 2019, the Army announced IOC (Initial Operational Capability) of its Howler C-UAS, which can use armed Coyote Block 1B vehicles as small drone interceptors. The block 1B features an RF seeker and a proximity-fuzed warhead. The USMC has used the Coyote as part of its Ground-Based Air Defense (GBAD) C-UAS since 2018.

The Coyote Block 2 is a significantly different, jet-powered drone interceptor UAV, which is described separately below.

The Coyote Block 3, developed since at least 2020, is similar in layout to the Block 1, but possibly slightly bigger. One of its features is a "non-kinetic warhead", which is reportedly capable of destroying a small drone without sacrificing the Coyote itself (which could therefore be recovered, and re-used for another mission). No confirmed technical details on the non-kinetic warhead are available. Both the U.S. Navy and Army have placed orders for the Block 3. The Navy envisions the use of Coyote from USVs (Unmanned Surface Vessels) and UUVs (Unmanned Underwater Vessels). The Army plans to purchase at least 700 Coyote Block 3 rounds for use with its M-LIDS (Mobile - Low Slow SUAV Integrated Defeat System) and FS-LIDS (Fixed Site - Low Slow SUAV Integrated Defeat System) platforms.


Note: Data given by several sources show slight variations. Figures given below may therefore be inaccurate!

Data for Coyote Block 1:

Length0.9 m (3 ft)
Wingspan1.5 m (4.9 ft)
Weight5.9 kg (13 lb)
Speedmax: 130 km/h (80 mph); cruise: 102 km/h (63 mph)
Ceiling9100 m (30000 ft)
Range130 km (80 miles) (link range after air launch)
Endurance> 1 h
PropulsionElectric motor

Coyote Block 2

The Coyote Block 1 C-UAS' relatively slow speed is a disadvantage, when very quick engagement of incoming adversary drones is needed. Therefore Raytheon developed a jet-powered derivative, called Coyote Block 2. Other than the name and the general form factor (making its launch tube presumably exchangable with that of the Block 1), it doesn't have a lot in common with the original Coyote. Instead of a UAV or a loitering munition, Coyote Block 2 is effectively an anti-drone surface-to-air guided missile. It uses rocket-assisted launch, and is powered in flight by a small turbojet engine. Instead of flip-out wings, it uses streaks on the body and four flip-out fins for lift and manoeuverability. The tungsten fragmentation warhead is optimized for use against small drones. The Block 2 can engage targets at 15 km (9 miles) range, and has a re-attack capability in case the target evades a hit on the first try.

Photo: Raytheon
Coyote Block 2

In December 2023, the U.S. Army has announced plans to acquire 6000 Coyote Block 2 rounds for use with its Howler, M-LIDS and FS-LIDS C-UAS platforms.


Data for Coyote Block 2:

Speed555 km/h (345 mph)
Range15 km (9 miles)
Propulsion1 turbojet

Main Sources

[1] Michael Peck: "Undersized Drone Promises Extended Maritime Surveillance", National Defense Magazine, January 2006
[2] Office of Naval Research Website
[3] Wikipedia: Raytheon Coyote
[4] The War Zone, Joseph Trevithick: NOAA’s Flying Hurricane Hunters Launch Suicidal “Coyote” Drones Into The Middle of Storms
[5] The War Zone, Joseph Trevithick: Drastic Increase In Army Coyote Drone Interceptor Purchase Plans
[6] LIDS Family of Systems

Back to Directory of U.S. Military Rockets and Missiles, Appendix 4

Last Updated: 21 January 2024