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MC-130J and Rapid Dragon Bσмb Combo: A Game-Changer for US Air Force Target Elimination

For the first time in an overseas test, the U.S. Air Force has employed its Rapid Dragon system, which launches cruise missiles on pallets from the back of a mobility aircraft. An MC-130J Commando II from the 352nd Special Operations Wing utilized the “bσмb bay in a box” system to launch a Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile-Extended Range (JᴀssM-ER) cruise missile over the Norwegian Sea, according to the Air Force Research Laboratory.

Dean Evans, the Rapid Dragon program manager, highlighted the program’s rapid progress, as it transitioned from a concept on paper to a live-fire test within two years. He stated that the successful test demonstrates the team’s commitment to rapidly meeting warfighter needs.

A video posted online by the command showcases the test process at Norway’s Andøya Space Defense Range from various angles. The MC-130’s open cargo bay ejects a parachute attached to the Rapid Dragon deployment box, which then rapidly pulls the pallet from the aircraft. The box deploys four additional parachutes for stabilization, and when the deployment box is vertical, it releases a JᴀssM-ER missile downward. The missile’s wings and tail quickly unfold, and its engine ignites, leaving a trail of exhaust.

This test marks the first live-fire Rapid Dragon demonstration since the Air Force destroyed a target in the Gulf of Mexico in December 2021 and the first instance of the concept being used outside the continental United States. The Air Force Research Lab reported that the program has primarily focused on kinetic munitions but is now shifting its focus to incorporating “palletized effects,” including intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance platforms, cargo resupply, and humanitarian aid delivery.

The Air Force envisions this concept enabling the U.S. and its allies to transform cargo aircraft into heavily armed bσмb trucks Portable of engaging enemies from a safe distance, providing combatant commanders with more firepower delivery options.

The lab stated that the test took place as part of the U.S. European Command’s Atreus operational series, which aims to conduct training events based on capabilities found in Europe. The 352nd Special Operations Wing is stationed at RAF Mildenhall in England, and the MC-130 is part of the wing’s 67th Special Operations Squadron. This test was the seventh Atreus event, with participation from the United Kingdom, Poland, and Romania, in addition to Norway. Past Atreus exercises have focused on using the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System alongside allies from Romania, the U.K., Sweden, and Latvia.

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