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Revolutionizing Aerial Combat: US Air Force’s MC-130J Destroys Enemy Targets with Cutting-Edge Rapid Dragon Boмb

For the first time in an overseas test, the U.S. Air Force has employed its Rapid Dragon system, which involves launching cruise missiles from pallets inside a mobility aircraft. The 352nd Special Operations Wing’s MC-130J Commando II launched a Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile-Extended Range (JᴀssM-ER) cruise missile using the “bσмb bay in a box” system at a range over the Norwegian Sea on Wednesday, according to the Air Force Research Laboratory.

Dean Evans, Rapid Dragon’s program manager, stated that the successful test demonstrates the rapid progress of the program, which went from a concept on paper to a live-fire test in just two years. Evans mentioned in a release that Rapid Dragon is now being utilized by U.S. Special Operations Command Europe in the Arctic Circle, less than three years after the program’s inception.

A video released by the command on Wednesday displays the test process at Norway’s Andøya Space Defense Range from multiple angles. A parachute connected to the Rapid Dragon deployment box is ejected from the MC-130’s open cargo bay, which then unfolds and quickly pulls the pallet out of the aircraft. The deployment box, now in freefall, releases its deployment parachute and opens four other parachutes to stabilize itself. When the deployment box is vertical, it launches a JᴀssM-ER missile downward. Within seconds, the missile’s wings and tail deploy, and its engine ignites, leaving a trail of exhaust behind.

This test marks the first live-fire Rapid Dragon trial since the Air Force destroyed a target in the Gulf of Mexico in December 2021 and the first time the concept was used outside the continental United States, as stated by the Air Force Research Lab. The lab also mentioned that the program has primarily focused on kinetic munitions, but it is now shifting its focus to include “palletized effects,” such as intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance platforms, cargo resupply, and humanitarian aid delivery.

The Air Force envisions this concept will enable the U.S. and its allies to convert cargo aircraft into heavily armed bσмb trucks capable of engaging enemies from a safe distance, providing combatant commanders with more firepower delivery options. The lab explained that this test was part of the U.S. European Command’s operational series Atreus, which aims to conduct training events on capabilities found in Europe. The 352nd Special Operations Wing is stationed at RAF Mildenhall in England, with the MC-130 belonging to the wing’s 67th Special Operations Squadron.

This test was the seventh Atreus event and involved allies from the United Kingdom, Poland, and Romania, in addition to Norway. Previous Atreus training exercises focused on using the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System alongside allies from Romania, the U.K., Sweden, and Latvia.

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