The Air Force is testing the viability of palletized munitions on its cargo aircraft to increase fire capacity, and could soon proceed to prototyping and fielding that capability, the head of the Air Force Warfighting Integration Capability (AFWIC) office said May 27.
The service has conducted successful tests of simulated palletized munitions from both C-130 and C-17 transport aircraft to see how effective the technology would be to provide additional capacity to the joint force, said Maj. Gen. Clint Hinote in a Wednesday videoconference hosted by the Mitchell Institute.
“What we see is that no matter how big our bomber force is, the capacity that the joint force needs is always more and more and more,” Hinote said. “This is why we think that there’s a real possibility here for using cargo platforms to be able to increase the capacity of fires.”
Hinote noted that the Air Force was in a stage currently “where new initiatives are hard to get across the finish line,” during the final year of a presidential term, and with a budget request submitted early in the year that limits changes. What’s more, the U.S. military and other budget observers are still weighing the possibility of a continuing resolution slowing down the enactment of fiscal year 2021 defense authorization and appropriations bills.
That being said, “that is all temporary,” he acknowledged. “And as we go forward, we see that one of the initiatives we definitely are wanting to pursue is the use of other types of aircraft and increasing the capacity of fires.
The Air Force in February released a request for information for palletized munitions technologies, with a response date of April 17. On Wednesday, the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) revealed that in January, the Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) successfully released palletized munitions from an MC-130J tanker, in three airdrops at Dugway Proving Ground, Utah. Aircrew released five wooden pallets – dubbed Combat Expendable Platforms – stacked with six simulated munitions in both low and high-altitude airdrops, AFRL said in a release.
Four of the munitions were Cargo Launch Expendable Air Vehicles with Extended Range (CLEAVERs), a prototype long-range, high precision weapon developed by AFRL.
“This successful [demo] is evidence of our commitment to evolve innovative weapons concepts and enhance our partnership with AFSOC to meet the needs of the National Defense Strategy,” said Col. Garry Haase, the director of AFRL’s Munitions Directorate at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. “CLEAVER represents a different approach to launching large numbers of long-range weapons, which will bring a new dynamic to the high-end fight.”
In future demonstrations, AFSOC will release CLEAVER glider vehicles, powered vehicles and full-up vehicles with optional warhead and terminal guidance, the Air Force said.