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USAF Remotely Retargets Cargo Aircraft-Launched Missiles

The US Air Force (USAF) has demonstrated its air-to-surface standoff missile-equipped Palletized Weapon System by remotely retargeting simulated missiles aboard a cargo aircraft.

During the demonstration, “the aircraft-agnostic Battle Management System onboard the aircraft received new targeting data and uploaded it to a JASSM-ER (Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile-Extended Range) emulator,” the service stated.

Following the retargeting, the palletized weapon deployment system is airdropped from the aircraft and releases multiple retargeted JASSM-ER simulants.

Demonstrates ‘De-Confliction’ During Operation

According to the service, the exercise demonstrated the ability to “safely de-conflict the airspace between weapon release intervals.”

De-confliction pertains to the coordination of flights and maneuvers in areas where overlapping operations are occurring. “This capability can provide combatant commanders greater flexibility to respond in dynamic operational environments.”

A Cargo Launch Expendable Air Vehicle with Extended Range, or CLEAVER, 2-pack pallet deploys from an MC-130J Commando II aircraft. Image: Courtesy photo/ US Air Force

Several First-Time Achievements

The air force revealed that airdrop tests accomplished several first: “a successful high altitude airdrop using a modular deployment box; a successful jettison of multiple weapons from the palletized weapon deployment system; and weapon deconfliction verification through the clean separation of JASSM-ER simulants from the deployment system.”

The demonstration was part of the Air Force Rapid Dragon Program, which focuses on utilizing cargo planes to deploy long-range strike weapons en masse, such as the JASSM-ER.

Provides Flexibility to Commanders

The capability to launch munitions from cargo aircraft will provide additional flexibility to commanders during battle and enhance the capacity of tactical fighters and strategic bombers.

“Additionally, the retargeting methodology used is transferable to other strike platforms, potentially making all JASSM-capable strike assets more lethal in an increasingly complicated and dynamic near-peer conflict,” the USAF wrote.

In the next stage, a live missile-equipped palletized weapon system will be test-launched from a cargo aircraft at the end of the year.

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