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USSOCOM to trial ‘Rapid Dragon' palletised launcher in November

Airmen and riggers with the 1st Special Operations Squadron Logistics Readiness Squadron load a Rapid Dragon Palletized Weapon System aboard an MC-130J Commando II in December 2021. (USAF)

US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) to demonstrate its ‘Rapid Dragon' missile launch capability in November 2023, the command's acquisition executive, Jim Smith, said at SOF Week in Tampa, Florida, on 9 May.

The weapon is to be launched from a US Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) MC-130J Commando II at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, and follows a launch in Norway in November 2022.

The 2022 event was led by the Air Force Strategic Development Planning and Experimentation (SDPE) organisation, in partnership with US Special Operations Command Europe (SOCEUR), and launched Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile-Extended Range (JASSM-ER) cruise missiles.

The Rapid Dragon Palletized Effects System was used to deploy JASSM-ERs using standard airdrop procedures from the cargo aircraft, according to an air force statement. An undisclosed number of munitions were released over the Norwegian Sea.

Colonel Ken Kuebler, USSOCOM's program executive officer (PEO) for fixed wing (FW) programme, said Rapid Dragon would be demonstrated over the next year-and-a-half using the MC-130J to launch JASSM-ERs.

“It's not [just] about the JASSM-ER, although I love [it] and we'll continue to look at it. It's more about the delivery system and what are the munitions that can go into that delivery system,” Col Kuebler said.

He suggested solutions could be either soft- or hard-kill effects, including electronic warfare payloads, and said the palletised system could drop between nine and 16 solutions from the MC-130J and bring capability to mesh together a network of multiple uncrewed vehicles in the air.

No further details regarding the scheduled launch were provided by USSOCOM.

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