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US Air Force completes another arsenal plane concept test

C-17 deploying palletized mock JASSM missiles
US Air Force photo of a C-17 deploying a combat expendable platforms - pallet - with mock JASSM missiles

After testing specially-designed cruise missiles launched form the back of a cargo plane earlier this year, the US Air Force has now completed another palletized munitions concept test with a more common missile.

The service said it used the recent “internet of military things” test, as the recent Advanced Battle Management Family of Systems (ABMS) onramp is often referred to, to test the deployment of mock “palletized” joint air-to-surface standoff missiles (JASSM) from a C-17 transport aircraft.

The palletized munitions demonstration leveraged multi domain operations initiatives and command and control capabilities to transfer targeting information to an Air Force special operations command aircraft via existing beyond line of sight communications systems and cue the simulated release of the JASSM. Lockheed Martin, R4 Integration, and Naval Surface Warfare Center – Dahlgren were involved in the development effort for the first-of-its-kind demonstration.

Earlier this year, the service launched four Cargo Launch Expendable Air Vehicles with Extended Range (CLEAVERs) across a spectrum of low and high altitude airdrops. These long-range, high precision weapons destroy moving and non-moving targets. While the air force never released details on the concept of employment, it is likely that the pallet, once launched from a cargo plane, deploys the weapons via a triggering mechanism.

“A palletized munitions capability could enable various airlift aircraft to employ a range of weapons en masse via a self-contained, roll-on/roll-off palletized system, and may offer an alternative way for the air force to bring more mass to the fight,” said Dr. Dean Evans, Palletized Munitions Experimentation Program Manager with the Air Force Strategic Development Planning and Experimentation (SDPE) office.

“The successful demo represents a key step in SDPE’s palletized munitions experimentation campaign, which will determine if the palletized munitions concept is feasible and provides a competitive advantage for the warfighter.”