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US AFRL plans Rapid Dragon palletised munitions experiments with additional weapons

A quarter scale model of an AFRL Rapid Dragon palletised munition rack on display 20 to 22 September 2021 at the Air Force Association's annual conference held outside Washington, DC. (Janes/Pat Host)

The US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) plans to experiment with additional weapons and effects, such as jamming and decoys, in its Rapid Dragon palletised munitions campaign in fiscal year 2022.

Dean Evans, Rapid Dragon programme manager, told Janes on 22 September that he intends to award contracts to Raytheon and Boeing to integrate Raytheon's ADM-160B Miniature Air-Launched Decoy (MALD) and Boeing's Joint Direct Attack Munition – Extended Range (JDAM-ER) into the programme. The JDAM-ER is in production and in use by the Royal Australian Air Force, according to Janes Weapons: Air Launched .

These contracts are being negotiated. Lockheed Martin and its subcontractors are the only companies under contract for Rapid Dragon.

Rapid Dragon could lead to a roll-on, roll-off system that turns mobility aircraft into lethal platforms, which augment the strike capacity of tactical fighters and strategic bombers. These new capabilities could provide combatant commanders additional flexibility to prosecute targets en masse, or as a whole, in combat.

The Rapid Dragon programme completed two demonstrations during its first system-level flight tests in July on a Lockheed EC-130SJ Commando Solo and a Boeing C-17A Globemaster III cargo aircraft, according to a service statement. The tests assessed the operational utility of delivering long-range strike weapons en masse from military cargo aircraft. They also demonstrated the ability for a beyond line-of-sight command-and-control node to transfer Lockheed Martin AGM-158B Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile – Extended Range (JASSM-ER) cruise missile targeting data to aircraft.

Scott Callaway, Lockheed Martin programme director for advanced strike programmes, told Janes

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