The cruiser Chancellorsville, shown here underway in 2011, was hit by an aerial target during a radar exercise, leaving a 3-foot-wide hole in its port side. (MC3 Alexander Tidd / Navy)
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A cruiser’s radar exercise in a Southern California test range went awry Saturday when an aerial target punched a hole into the ship’s hull, leaving two sailors with minor burns.
The San Diego-based cruiser Chancellorsville was underway Saturday afternoon off Point Mugu, Calif., for a radar tracking exercise when a drone malfunctioned, a 3rd Fleet spokeswoman said.
Lt. Lenaya Rotklein said that the BQM-74 “Chukar” drone, which can simulate subsonic fighters or incoming missiles, was being used to test the cruiser’s Aegis weapons system, which was upgraded in 2012 for ballistic-missile defense missions.
The incident is under investigation, and Chancellorsville returned to home port Sunday morning to assess the damage.
“We’re still assessing the extent of the damage to see what needs to be done,” said Lt. Rick Chernitzer, a spokesman for Naval Surface Force Pacific, who added that experts were still determining the severity of the mishap and a time line to fix the damages.
It was not immediately clear what caused the BQM-74 to malfunction, but it left its mark: a roughly 3-foot-wide perforation through the cruiser’s port side superstructure at the weatherdeck level. The direct hit — well above the waterline — appears to be near the port break, one of two topside throughways used to get from the fo’c’sle to midships, as seen in images from a local TV news station’s helicopter.