The US Air Force’s (USAF) Rapid Dragon programme has conducted its first system-level flight tests to assess the operational utility of the palletised munition deployment system.

The tests mark two more demonstrations of the capability to mass deliver long-range strike weapons from military cargo aircraft. It was performed at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.

Rapid Dragon programme, which was previously designated the Palletized Munitions Program, is an experimentation campaign led by the Air Force Strategic Development Planning and Experimentation (SDPE) office.

According to the Air Force Research Laboratory, the latest tests also showcased the ability for a beyond-line-of-sight (BLOS) Command and Control (C2) node to transfer Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile-Extended Range (JASSM-ER) cruise missile targeting data to airborne Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) and Air Mobility Command (AMC) aircraft.

The SDPE office and partners Air Force Futures, AFSOC, AMC, US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) Det 1, and the 412th Test Wing completed the first system-level flight tests on EC-130SJ and C-17A  airlift aircraft.

The aircraft’s battle management system received new targeting data and uploaded it to the JASSM-ER simulator.

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In a previous test of an instrumented JASSM-ER Palletized Weapon System at White Sands Missile Range in March, the SDPE used the Mills Manufacturing G-11 Cargo Parachute Assembly to establish an undisclosed deployment altitude deployment record for the Rapid Dragon programme.

A live-fire test with a production JASSM-ER from a cargo aircraft is expected to take place later this year.