Rapid Dragon airdrops palletised JASSM-ER from EC-130J, C-17A

by Robin Hughes

The US Air Force (USAF) Rapid Dragon Program conducted the first end-to-end system-level demonstration of an airdropped Palletized Munition Deployment System in July, releasing simulant AGM-158B Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile - Extended Range (JASSM-ER) cruise missiles from Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) EC-130SJ Commando Solo and Air Mobility Command C-17A- Globemaster III aircraft at high altitude over White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico.

The demonstration, which was led by Air Force Strategic Development Planning and Experimentation Office (SDPE), part of the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), in association with Air Force Futures, AFSOC, Air Mobility Command, US Special Operations Command Det 1, and the USAF 412th Test Wing, “showcased the ability for a Beyond-Line-of-Sight Command-and-Control node to transfer [JASSM-ER] cruise missile targeting data to airborne Air Force Special Operations Command and Air Mobility Command aircraft”, the USAF said in a press release on 20 August.

An airdropped Palletized Munition Deployment System carrying JASSM-ER simulants. The image shows one of the AGM-158B JASSM-ER cruise missiles in the Deployment Box immediately after being airdropped from a 193rd Special Operations Wing EC-130J Commando Solo transport. (US Air Force)

An airdropped Palletized Munition Deployment System carrying JASSM-ER simulants. The image shows one of the AGM-158B JASSM-ER cruise missiles in the Deployment Box immediately after being airdropped from a 193rd Special Operations Wing EC-130J Commando Solo transport. (US Air Force)

According to the release, an operational aircrew from the 492 Special Operations Training Group Detachment 2 and a test aircrew from the 418th Flight Test Squadron conducted the airdrops “in an operationally relevant environment, demonstrating the feasibility of a palletised delivery of long-range strike weapons”. The US Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division, the USAF Standoff Munitions Application Center, Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, Systima Technologies, Safran Electronics & Defense, Parachutes USA, and R4 Integration, Inc also supported the demonstration.

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The US Air Force (USAF) Rapid Dragon Program conducted the first end-to-end system-level demonstrati...

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