SOURCE: SRINIVAS GOWDA/ FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG
The US Air Force’s (USAF) Rapid Dragon program last month conducted its first system-level flight tests to assess the operational utility of the palletised munition deployment system. Rapid Dragon program is an experimentation campaign led by the Air Force Strategic Development Planning and Experimentation (SDPE) office under which it plans to demonstrate that cargo holds of C-17A Globemaster III airlifter and an EC-130J Super J can be converted into cruise missiles silos that can para drop AGM-158B Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile-Extended Range cruise missile.
Program plans to arm airlifters and convert them into weapons trucks so that it can offer standoff weapons capability that is far cheaper than fielding additional bombers. for India that operates both of the airlifter fleets and has no conventional bomber aircraft, it might come as a boon to enhance its ground strike capabilities without going bonkers on its budget. IAF in past has used its An-12 and An-32 airlifter as bombers in limited roles but it was usually limited to free-fall gravity bombs.
IAF can take inspiration from USAF and work with DRDO to adopt the Rapid Dragon program into the development of local programs where similar capacities can be demonstrated with local weapons systems using BrahMos-NG or CATS Hunter ALCMs if the Rapid Dragon program fails to move from experimental concept to reality.
USAF-IAF already are jointly working on the air-launched swarming drones that can be launched from a “mothership” transport aircraft like C-130J and then be recovered by the mothership after their mission is complete.
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