Japan considers airdropping cruise missiles from C-2 transport aircraft

Courtesy photo

The Japanese Ministry of Defense has revealed plans to launch long-range missiles from the Kawasaki C-2 transport aircraft. 

The plan, aimed at increasing the country’s standoff capabilities, was first reported by The Japan Times, citing government sources. ¥3.6 billion ($25 million) was earmarked in the fiscal 2023 budget to study the solution.  

The Kawasaki C-2, powered by two General Electric CF6 engines, is capable of carrying a maximum load of 37.6 tons across distances of approximately 4,500 kilometers. Its operational range can extend up to 7600 km with a 20-ton payload.  

As such, it can carry more missiles over greater distances than a F-15J or an F-35 of the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF). The latter operates a fleet of 14 C-2 transport aircraft, including one dedicated to electronic intelligence. 

Two missiles are being considered to arm the C-2: the AGM-158 JASSM, a stealthy missile with a range of 900 kilometers, and an air-launched version of the Type 12 anti-ship missile currently being developed by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. 

The idea of using the ramp of cargo planes as missile launch platforms is not new. A similar system was developed by the United States Air Force for transport aircraft such as the C-130 or the C-17.  

Named Rapid Dragon, this roll-on, roll-off mechanism allows the simultaneous launch of numerous long-range cruise missiles through conventional airdrop protocols from the open cargo hold of a transport aircraft. After being released, the missile deploys its control surfaces and glides toward its intended target. 

On November 9, 2022, at the Andøya Space Center situated on Andøya island in northern Norway, the United States Special Operations Command showcased the deployment of the palletized system airdropped from an MC-130J Commando II transport aircraft. 

In a similar manner, Airbus showcased the deployment of a Remote Carrier flight demonstrator – the loyal wingman drone for the upcoming European Future Combat Air System or FCAS – from the cargo hold of an A400M Atlas transport aircraft. 

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