USAF Arms MC-130J Cargo Aircraft With JASSM Long-Range Missile

The US Air Force recently demonstrated the loading, unloading, and arming of an MC-130J Commando II aircraft with AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles (JASSMs).

The demonstration was part of the Rapid Dragon program to develop a cargo plane-launched missile capability as a flexible, rapid response option.

“We are demonstrating the capability for the MC-130, which is a special operations C-130 Super Hercules, to load, unload, and if it should become necessary — arm the aircraft with the JASSM,” Special Operations Task Group – Central operations director Maj. Anthony Belviso said

“We practiced loading the JASSM collocated with the aircraft, to ensure our processes are in place, in the event to forward arm for the F-16 Fighting Falcons or any of the bombers at a forward location, we can do that quickly and effectively.”

Rapid Dragon Missile Airdrop 

The process begins with the aircrew receiving the targeting data from the ground through a beyond-line-of-sight command and control node for the onboard Battle Management System.

The system transfers it to the four-cell Rapid Dragon palletized munitions system.

Once airdropped, the system sequentially releases the missiles in midair for them to deploy their wings and tail and glide toward the target. 

A 52nd Special Operations Squadron MC-130J Combat Shadow II aircraft flies over the skies of New Mexico.
A 52nd Special Operations Squadron MC-130J Combat Shadow II aircraft flies over the skies of New Mexico. Photo: Senior Airman James Bell/US Air Force

MC-130J Commando II

Based on the Lockheed Martin C-130 Hercules military transport aircraft, the MC-130J Commando II is a multi-mission combat transport/special operations tanker assigned to US Air Force Special Operations Command.

It has a maximum takeoff weight of 64,000 pounds (74,389 kilograms), can fly 3,000 miles (4,828 kilometers) without refueling, and has a ceiling of 28,000 feet (8,534 meters).

The MC-130J’s primary functions include the refueling of Special Operations Forces helicopter/tilt-rotor aircraft, infiltration, exfiltration, and resupply by airdrop or airland.

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