Home Air US Air Force awards Lockheed $25m for further arsenal plane concept work

US Air Force awards Lockheed $25m for further arsenal plane concept work

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

The US Air Force Strategic Development Planning and Experimentation (SDPE) Office has awarded Lockheed Martin a $25 million contract for the next phase of testing of the service’s new arsenal plane concept.

Over the past several months, the air force has carried out several tests of palletized munitions deployment that would enable various airlift aircraft to employ a range of weapons en masse via a self-contained, roll-on/roll-off palletized system.

Announcing the contract for the latest round of testing, Lockheed Martin said the fourth phase would include a system-level demonstration in 2021 and continue to assess the potential to deliver large volumes of air-launched weapons via airlifters.

“Despite the palletized munitions program being relatively new, it’s moving very quickly,” said Scott Callaway, Lockheed Martin Advanced Strike Systems director. “The US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) contracting and Strategic Development Planning and Experimentation (SDPE) offices, and Lockheed Martin teams established this new contract in a record time of 30 days, supporting faster prototyping and a shorter timeline to bring this advanced capability to the warfighter in the field.”

Initial studies show that airlifters have the potential to deploy large quantities of Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile Extended Range (JASSM-ER) missiles, providing a significant increase in long-range standoff scale and complementing traditional strike and bomber aircrafts. This innovative approach enables warfighters to launch offensive operations from a greater number of airfields and engage a larger number of near-peer adversarial targets.

The overall goal of the experimentation is to develop a modular system to deliver air-launched weapons, leveraging standard airdrop procedures and operations. The system will have the ability to be rolled on and off multiple types of aircraft, including the C-17 and C-130.

Phase I successfully accomplished five high-altitude airdrops from an MC-130J and a C-17 earlier this year using simulated weapons. During this effort, the US Air Force tested the suitability of launching JASSM-ERs from an airlifter. Another test featured the deployment of the new Cargo Launch Expendable Air Vehicles with Extended Range (CLEAVERs) long-range, high precision weapons