US military demonstrates cruise missile airdropped from cargo plane

Courtesy photo

The United States Special Operations Command successfully demonstrated a new palletized weapons system in Norway.  

Called Rapid Dragon, the roll-on, roll-off system allows the launch of multiple long-range cruise missiles using standard airdrop procedures from the open cargo bay of a transport aircraft. Upon release, the weapon deploys its control surfaces and glides toward its target. The system essentially transforms a regular transport aircraft into a strike platform. 

The test took place on November 9, 2022, at Andøya Space Center on Andøya island, northern Norway. It was conducted by the US Special Operations Command Europe in the presence of Norway, Poland, Romania, and the United Kingdom. 

It was the first time that the weapon was demonstrated in Europe. The maiden live-fire test of the Rapid Dragon took place a year prior, on November 3, 2021, at White Sands Missile Range in the US state of New Mexico.  

“The Rapid Dragon Experimentation Program is appropriately named, as it advanced rapidly from a concept on paper to a live fire using a developmental prototype in 24 months,” said Dr. Dean Evans, Rapid Dragon program manager. “Now less than three years from the program’s inception, Rapid Dragon is being used by SOCEUR in the Arctic Circle. This is a testament to the team’s focus on rapid fielding to meet warfighter needs.” 

SOCEUR said the Rapid Dragon was tested using an MC-130J Commando II transport aircraft of the 352d Special Operations Wing, a variant of the Lockheed C-130 Hercules specifically designed for special forces missions.  

UPDATE November 10, 2022, 09:05 AM (UTC +3): The article was updated with a video from the 352d Special Operations Wing.

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