Last month, the #UnitedStates #AirForce successfully live-fire tested the “Rapid Dragon,” from a deployment system for MC-130J Commando IIs and similar aircraft. The weapon system will allow cargo aircraft to be weaponized and act as strategic attack platforms. Led by the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Strategic Development Planning and Experimentation office Rapid Dragon is a palletized munitions experimentation campaign exploring the feasibility and operational advantages of airdropping long-range palletized munitions from existing airlift platforms, such as the C-130 and C-17, without aircraft modifications. The multi-phase program brings together nearly 30 stakeholders from across DoD, Air Force Major Commands, Test and Evaluation enterprise, program offices, and industry to develop and demonstrate the capability through modeling, simulation, analysis, demonstration, and flight tests. The program, established in December 2019, expects to achieve powered flight within 24 months. Rapidly deployable palletized munitions can saturate the airspace with multiple weapons and effects, complicate adversary targeting solutions, help open access for critical target prosecution, and deplete an adversary’s air defense munitions stockpile. Additionally, the Air Force could utilize palletized munitions to aid in restricting sea-lane or harbor movement (palletized sea-mining mission), drive a reallocation of resources to address new Concept of Operations (adversary cost imposition), and provide this capability, as a force multiplier, to foreign partners and allies when U.S. aircraft availability may be limited in some scenarios. AFRL Commander Maj. Gen. Heather Pringle said in the release:
“This type of experimentation campaign, that address[es] capability gaps and demonstrates transformative efforts, helps us shape future requirements and reduces timeline to fielding…This approach ultimately enables a rapid fielding alternative to traditional lengthy acquisition timelines.”
The United States Airforce has been developing futuristic type weapon systems for a while. Other contributors to the recent test include the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren, the Standoff Munitions Application Center, Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, Systima Technologies, R4 Integration, and the Safran Electronics and Defense subsidiary Parachutes USA.