Watch Hercules cargo plane parachutes a cruise missile in Arctic
The airdropped deployment box with a long-range JASSM-ER cruise missile is the first time Rapid Dragon has been tested in Europe.
Flying north from an airbase in the United Kingdom, the military cargo plane tested the palletised munition system as part of the ATREUS training events going in parallel in Norway, Poland, Romania and the United Kingdom in cooperation with the US Special Operations Europe.
The area where the Rapid Dragon was tested is part of Andøya Space Defence Range, some 300 kilometers inside the Arctic Circle.
“This is not signaling to Russia or any adversary,” U.S. Army Cpt. Margaret Collins told the Barents Observer last week when the plans first were made public.
From this part of the Norwegian Sea, the distance to the homeports for Russia’s nuclear submarines on the Kola Peninsula is some 650 kilometers.
#BREAKING video from 352nd Special Operations Wing successful test fire of a palletized Joint Air to Surface Standoff Missile (JASSM). Successful extraction of deployment box, release of JASSM with wing extension, and motor engagement during exercise #ATREUS22 #SOFinEurope pic.twitter.com/3hLcXDJ3bl— US Spec Ops Europe (@US_SOCEUR) November 9, 2022
An advantage of the new weapon system is that the United States could rapidly provide massive strike capability to any NATO member by using the existing fleet of transport planes. Such planes, like the Hercules, can operate from landing runways as short as 900 meters.
There are several tens of such runways in northern Scandinavia, airports that can deploy the planes in case military air bases with longer runways are attacked by an adversary.
The module with the missiles is designed as a roll-on roll-off capability to enable rapid fielding and eliminate the need for aircraft modification.
Rapid Dragon has an onboard control module attached to the pack that enables the missiles and battle management system to communicate so missions and targets can be updated while the plane is airborne.
After the module is parachuted, weapons will be systematically released. Each will ignite, pull up, and proceed normally to the target.