Cargo Aircraft Destroys Target Using a Game-Changing New Capability - a First for USAF

The U.S. Air Force is one step closer to implementing a game-changing capability that will ensure its combat superiority – the recent live fire test that concluded the flights' demonstrations of this groundbreaking program confirmed that USAF’s cargo airplanes are now officially deadlier, capable of destroying multiple targets.
The MC-130J dropped the Rapid Dragon palletized munition system in a succesfull live fire test 6 photos
MC-130J - Rapid DragonMC-130J - Rapid DragonMC-130J - Rapid DragonMC-130J - Rapid DragonMC-130J - Rapid Dragon
One way of increasing firepower during combat, to be able to engage multiple enemy targets, is to increase cargo aircraft’s lethality. The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) coordinated the ambitious project called Rapid Dragon. This was the name of an ancient Chinese military crossbow catapult that could launch several bolts with just one trigger pull.

Similarly, this modern airborne weapon delivery system allows missiles to be dropped from cargo aircraft in a palletized deployment box under a parachute.

The program was developed in record time, going from concept to the first flight test in only ten months. The first live-fire demonstration, recently carried out, was a successful culmination. For the first time, an MC-130J received targeting data while flying and sent it to the live cruise missile (a test version).

The Rapid Dragon deployment system was then dropped over a specific area in the Gulf of Mexico with a parachute. The missile safely separated from the box, deployed its wings and tail, started its engine, then went straight for the target, which got destroyed upon impact.

The mighty MC-130J is a multimission tanker that can carry up to 42,000 lbs (19,000 kg) of cargo at an altitude of 28,000 feet (8,534 m). The G-11 parachutes, typically used for cargo deployment, were used for munitions airdrop operations for the first time during this program. But the MC-130J won’t be the only one to deploy the Rapid Dragon system. Next spring, a new live-fire test will be conducted by a C-17 to prove the system’s compatibility with any aircraft.

The goal is to make this capability available for several cargo platforms, as well as add different other weapon systems that can be deployed using this method. AFRL hopes to unveil the operational prototype in the next two years. This modern Rapid Dragon is set to transform the lethality of USAF’s fleet.

press release

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