The US Air Force (USAF) is launching Rocket Cargo as the fourth Vanguard programme to explore the rocket cargo transportation capability for the Department of Defense (DoD) logistics.

This programme has been announced as part of the Service’s transformational science and technology portfolio defined under the ‘Department of Air Force 2030 Science and Technology strategy’ for the next decade.

Furthermore, the US Space Force (USSF) is the ‘lead service’ for this fourth Vanguard.

As outlined in the 2030 strategy, Vanguards will ‘advance’ new weapon systems and combat concepts via ‘prototyping and experimentation’.

The first three Vanguard programmes are Golden Horde, Navigation Technology Satellite 3 (NTS-3) and Skyborg.

The programmes are aimed at delivering ‘remarkable’ new capabilities that provide soldiers with superior advantages on the battlefield.

US Air Force acting secretary John Roth said: “The airforce has provided rapid global mobility for decades and Rocket Cargo is a new way the department can explore complementary capabilities for the future.

“Vanguard initiatives lead to game-changing breakthroughs that preserve our advantage over near-peer competitors, and this latest addition is also a significant milestone as the first Vanguard evaluated under the space force’s oversight.”

Rocket Cargo Vanguard will see the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) lead a science and technology effort to analyse the ‘viability and utility’ of using commercial rockets for Department of Defense (DoD) global logistics.

The Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) will serve as the Program Executive Officer.

Space Operations General John Raymond said: “The Rocket Cargo Vanguard is a clear example of how the space force is developing innovative solutions as a service, in particular the ability to provide independent options in, from, and to space.

“Once realised, Rocket Cargo will fundamentally alter the rapid logistics landscape, connecting materiel to joint warfighters in a fraction of the time it takes today.

“In the event of conflict or humanitarian crisis, the space force will be able to provide our national leadership with an independent option to achieve strategic objectives from space.”

In December last year, the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center (AFLCMC) awarded contracts to three companies for the production of missionised prototypes that can fly in experimentation events.