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Top US Air Force officer endorses palletised munitions experiments

A top US Air Force (USAF) officer supports the service's experimentation with palletised munitions as they can keep US adversaries guessing and provide capabilities in scenarios where it needs help.

General Timothy Ray, Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC) chief and commander of Air Force Strategic – Air, US Strategic Command (STRATCOM), said on 3 June that palletised munitions are an innovative approach and that there are ways that they can be done.

β€œIn the end, I think this is indicative of learning we need to continue to add to the set of options that we have,” Gen Ray said during an Air Force Association (AFA) event.

A palletised munitions airdrop is the delivery of a large volume of air-launched weapons at any given time. Doug Birkey, executive director of the Mitchell Institute for Airpower Studies, told Janes on 26 May that the USAF is experimenting with palletised munitions because it does not have enough bombers, making it desperate for long-range strike options.

The USAF had just over 400 bomber platforms toward the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s, according to a June 2020 report by the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies. The USAF, in its fiscal year (FY) 2022 budget request, is proposing a bomber force of 140 aircraft: 44 Rockwell B-1B Lancers, 20 Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirits, and 76 Boeing B-52H Stratofortresses.

The USAF is planning to perform a live-fire palletised munitions demonstration with a live Lockheed Martin AGM-158B Joint Air to Surface Standoff Missile-Extended Range (JASSM-ER) from an Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) Lockheed Martin MC-130J Commando II later this year.

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