The U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) is interested in the possible incorporation of new features on transport aircraft, including electronic attack and standoff kinetic strike, the AFSOC commander said on Sept. 7.
“Whether it’s electronic attack or long-range precision fires, you could kind of use your imagination to figure out many things that you might do with a large volume carrier like a C-130 or a C-17,” Air Force Lt. Gen. James Slife, the head of AFSOC, told an Air & Space Forces Association Warfighters in Action forum.
Employing transport aircraft in such roles as part of Air Force Agile Combat Employment (ACE) for deploying service assets in undeveloped locations would complicate an adversary’s targeting of U.S. and allied forces, Slife said. Air Force doctrine stresses a decreased service reliance on fixed bases, as adversaries may easily target such bases.
“Number one, from a targeting perspective, I think an adversary has to take a lot different look at the region when it comes to where can we project power from,” he said of fielding new features for transport aircraft under ACE. “Number two, when you look at the [U.S.] partner capability, we have a lot of partners around the globe that don’t have heavy bomber type platforms that are traditional carriers of those types of munitions, but they’ve got plenty of C-130s and A-400s and C-17s, and the beauty is this capability doesn’t require any aircraft modifications, and it doesn’t require any special crew training beyond what any airdrop crew already possesses. And so, it’s really easily exportable to our partners and allies around the globe that may want to increase the utility of their air force, but they just don’t have the big wing bombers the United States does.”
Lockheed Martin builds the C-130, while Boeing [BA] built the C-17 and Airbus the A-400.
“We’ve had a number of requests around the globe from partners to demonstrate this capability and help them integrate it onto their aircraft,” Slife said. “We did an iteration of that in the spring. We’re gonna do another one in the fall with partners around the globe.”
Such tests may involve such countries as Poland, Australia and/or Finland, which already have Lockheed Martin [LMT] AGM-158A Joint Air to Surface Standoff Missiles (JASSM) and have or plan to buy AGM-158B JASSM-Extended Range (JASSM-ER) variants. In addition, the German Air Force is to receive JASSM-ER.
Last December, an AFSOC MC-130J dropped a JASSM at the Eglin AFB Overwater Test Range, Fla., as part of the Rapid Dragon program to test and field palletized munition operational prototypes on cargo aircraft by 2024 (Defense Daily, Dec. 17, 2021).
The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) has said that Rapid Dragon under the Air Force’s Strategic Development Planning and Experimentation office is named for a “thousand-year-old Chinese military designed crossbow catapult that launched multiple crossbow bolts with the pull of a single trigger, raining destruction down on armies from tremendous ranges. These lethal devices were called Ji Long Che—Rapid Dragon Carts.”
Last December, AFRL said that Rapid Dragon had conducted a number of system level flight tests using MC-130Js, EC-130SJs, and C-17s.