The US Air Force has indicated in recent days that a new cruise missile delivery method has been successfully trialled.
According to a statement released by the Air Force Research Laboratory and Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) on 27 May, the agency has successfully tested the release of cruise missiles from the cargo ramp of the Lockheed Martin MC-130J Commando II.
The technique is favoured because of significant associated cost-savings, as opposed to a traditional launch.
“AFSOC aircrew released five [Combat Expendable Platforms] rigged with six simulated munitions, the same mass as the actual weapons, including four Cargo Launch Expendable Air Vehicles with Extended Range (CLEAVERs) across a spectrum of low and high altitude airdrops,” said the USAF. “These long-range, high precision weapons destroy moving and non-moving targets.”
The trial ties in to comments made earlier this year by General Timothy Ray, who told reporters in April that the Pentagon had floated the idea of an “arsenal plane”. The concept would allow for cargo delivery of large numbers of cruise missiles.
“The arsenal plane concept is probably better described as more of a clean-sheet approach to a platform that can affordably and rapidly fill the gap for long-range strike capabilities, and to go down more innovative paths,” said Gen Ray.
While the USAF has not provided further clarification on the arsenal plane concept, it previously hinted that B-1 or B-52 bombers were under consideration, as well as airlifters such as the Boeing C-17 Globemaster III.
The trial was conducted using a Lockheed Martin MC-130J.