MC-130 successfully dropped a four-cell cruise missiles system

WASHINGTON – The USAF’s Rapid Dragon program demonstrated the ability to use the Rapid Dragon Palletized Weapon System to deploy guided missiles with standard air-drop techniques from cargo aircraft.

MC-130 successfully dropped a four-cell cruise missiles system
Photo credit: FlugRevue

A two-year test program culminated in a test with a cruise missile [JASSM] from the current inventory, which was equipped with a sharp warhead, learned BulgarianMilitary.com, citing FlugRevue.

During the December test, an Air Force Special Operations Command MC-130J received new target data in flight, which was then forwarded to the Cruise Missile Flight Test Vehicle [FTV]. The reception and uploading of the new target data into the FTV by the aircraft-independent combat command system was the first-time performance with a live cruise missile.

In the drop zone over the Gulf of Mexico, the MC-130J crew dropped a four-cell Rapid Dragon deployment system that contained the FTV and three dummies, which were dropped one after the other on parachutes from the palletized deployment box. The safe separation from the drop-box was demonstrated with an unconventional drop method [vertical alignment with the nose down].

Immediately after the vertical separation, the FTV unfolded its wings and tail unit, gained aerodynamic control, started its engine, and flew towards its assigned target. The cruise missile successfully destroyed its target on impact, according to the USAF

The next step in the Rapid Dragon program will be a live-fire test with a cruise missile from a C-17 in the spring of 2022 to demonstrate the aircraft-independent capabilities of the Palletized Weapon System.

As part of a follow-up program, the Rapid Dragon pallet portfolio is to be expanded to include additional weapon systems and capabilities for multiple effects, and the system will continue to mature to move from a development prototype to a prototype for an operational system over the next two years.

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