The US Air Force Strategic Development Planning and Experimentation (SDPE) office has showcased the importance and value of experimentation and prototyping efforts in rapidly fielding capabilities.

Announced by the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), the demonstration was conducted at exercise Emerald Warrior 21 held at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico in March this year.

The SDPE participated with its partner, the Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC), reported Mark Ingram from SDPE office.

Emerald Warrior is an annual, joint exercise that involve US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) forces training to respond to various threats across the conflict spectrum.

SDPE director Chris Ristich said Rapid Dragon was able to prove that collaboration and well-thought-out programmes can quickly deliver operationally relevant capabilities to troops.

This reduces the timeline of fielding the capability and the risk of failure.

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The current approach of lengthy formal acquisition programmes will not be able to deliver the Future Force, noted Ristich.

The former Palletized Munitions Program is now known as Rapid Dragon. The programme focuses on developing an ability to use the C-130 and C-17 airlifters without modification to deploy air-launched weapons such as Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles (JASSM).

During the demonstration, Rapid Dragon overcame the issues identified in previous tests associated with the airdropped palletised munition’s stability.

The team assessed parachute and rigging configurations to verify whether the stability issues could be corrected to deploy large quantities of JASSM at operational altitudes.

They were able to maximise both the stability and the weapon release envelope for the JASSM platform.

In addition, the actual stabilisation rates detected during the tests outpaced the modelling predictions.

SDPE Experimentation and Prototyping division chief Rudy Klosterman said: “The Rapid Dragon programme offers just one example of how SDPE is accelerating change to deliver operationally relevant capabilities for the Future Force.

“These experimentation and prototyping efforts coupled with our development planning, and modelling, simulation and analysis capabilities deliver the credible evidence needed to assess operational utility, highlight risk reduction and mission trades, and inform tactical and strategic acquisitions.”

HQ AFSOC key partners, AFSOC units aircrews, Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control Advanced Program test engineers, as well as a rigging team from Safran Electronics and Defense worked alongside SDPE during the exercise to support the demonstration.