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US Air Force cargo plane launched cruise missile in Norway

Defense News

Stephen Losey, November 10


WASHINGTON — The U.S. Air Force has for the first time in an overseas test used its Rapid Dragon system, in which cruise missiles on pallets are launched from the back of a mobility aircraft.


An MC-130J Commando II from the 352nd Special Operations Wing launched a Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile-Extended Range cruise missile using the system nicknamed “bomb bay in a box” in a range over the Norwegian Sea on Wednesday, the Air Force Research Laboratory said.


Dean Evans, the program manager for Rapid Dragon, said the successful test shows how quickly the program is progressing, noting that it moved from a concept on paper to a live-fire test in two years.



“Now, less than three years from the program’s inception, Rapid Dragon is being used by [U.S. Special Operations Command Europe] in the Arctic Circle,” Evans said in a release. “This is a testament to the team’s focus on rapid fielding to meet warfighter needs.”

The command posted a video online Wednesday that shows the test process at Norway’s Andøya Space Defense Range from multiple perspectives. A parachute attached to the Rapid Dragon deployment box is tossed from the open cargo bay of the MC-130, which then unfurls and swiftly pulls the pallet out of the aircraft.


The hurtling box sheds its deployment parachute and deploys a quartet of other parachutes that steady it. When the deployment box is vertical, it releases a JASSM-ER missile downward. Within seconds, the missile’s wings and tail snap open, and its engine engages, leaving a trail of exhaust in its wake.


This was the first live-fire Rapid Dragon test since the Air Force destroyed a target in the Gulf of Mexico in December 2021, and the first time the concept was used outside of the continental United States, the Air Force Research Lab said.


A longer video of the test posted by the Pentagon showed the cruise missile traveling over the sea for about 2 minutes before detonating. When asked if a target was destroyed, the lab did not respond directly, but said that all objectives were met.



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