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USAF awards Lockheed Martin contract to continue airlifter-launched munitions research

Phase 1 of the Palletized Munitions program saw high-altitude airdrops from an MC-130 and a C-17 using simulated JASSM-ER missiles. Photo: USAF

The USAF’s Strategic Development Planning and Experimentation (SDPE) Office has awarded Lockheed Martin a US$25 million contract to support the fourth phase of the service’s Palletized Munitions Experimentation Campaign.

This research program is exploring the potential to deliver large volumes of air-launched weapons via airlifters instead of dedicated combat aircraft. The fourth phase includes a system-level demonstration scheduled for 2021.

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.

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 USAF tested the suitability of launching JASSM-ERs from an airlifter. 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.

The U.S. 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.

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