According to reports, the United States Air Force’s new strategy has frightened the Chinese military.
The service demonstrated the use of the Rapid Dragon Palletized Weapon System to launch Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles (JASSM) from cargo planes like the Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules during a live-fire exercise over Norway.
Rapid Dragon, an airdropped palletized and disposable weapons module created by the US Air Force and Lockheed, allows unmodified cargo aircraft like the C-130J, Boeing C-17 Globemaster III, and Lockheed MC-130 to launch a variety of flying munitions such cruise missiles.
The pallets unleash their missiles by using a connected electronic control box as they are slowed by parachutes.
The idea was inspired by the Ji Long Che, a volley-firing siege weapon developed in China in the tenth century that allowed for the safe launch of a number of long-range crossbow bolts. It also enables the US Air Force to temporarily convert cargo planes into standoff bombers, which is a cost-effective solution, and launch assaults from outside of risky regions.
Red Dragon’s whole assembly is kept together by a pallet that can be dropped from a height of only 3,000 feet. During swarm tactics operations, it is also thought that the weapon system might be used to target the weaknesses of other nations’ air defense systems, such as the S-300 and S-400 deployed by Russia.
The AGM-158 JASSM, a low observable standoff air-launched cruise missile, and its variants are currently deployable by Rapid Dragon, which has a payload capacity of between 4,000 and 9,900 kg. The range of a cruise missile can range from 80 to 1,900 kilometers, depending on the model.
Rapid Dragon is “really easily exportable to our partners and allies around the globe who may want to increase the utility of their air force,” according to Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) commander Lt. Gen. Jim Slife, following the successful live-fire demonstration in November 2022 as part of US Special Operations Command Europe exercise ATREUS 22-4.
“An MC-130J is a fantastic aircraft for this capability because we can land and operate from 3,000-foot roadways and harsh landing zones, but a bomber cannot,” said Lt. Col. Valerie Knight, mission commander of the 352nd Special Operations Wing (SOW).
In February 2023, the US Air Force intends to conduct another test at the Eglin Air Force Base Over Water Test Range in the western Florida Panhandle, this time over the Gulf of Mexico. A cruise missile with an undisclosed warhead will be used in this test.
An article in China National Defense News, a sister magazine of the PLA Daily, the Science and Technology section, claims that the development of Rapid Dragon has frightened Chinese military specialists. The latter acts as the Central Military Commission of the Chinese Communist Party’s spokesperson.
The article’s author, Xi Qizhi, points out that cargo planes are significantly harder to detect and can fly more combat missions than conventional bombers. Additionally, he says that such aircraft may be used for strike missions after delivering supplies to the front, giving supply runs a second function.
V-280 Valor To Replace the US Army’s Fleet of Black Hawk and Apache Helicopters
The Future Vertical Lift (FVL) program of the US Army is responsible for the development of the Bell V-280 Valor.
The tiltrotor was chosen in June 2013 as a component of the service’s Joint Multi-Role (JMR) Technology Demonstrator (TD) phase, indicating that authorities thought the design was sound conceptually and technically or scientifically.
It also showed Bell Textron was on schedule to provide a vehicle that satisfied the Army’s specifications.
A few months later, Bell announced that it would collaborate on the V-280 project with Lockheed Martin, the latter of which would supply sensors, integrated avionics, and weaponry. Several more businesses were listed as producing rotorcraft equipment in addition to Lockheed.