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Iran Press TV

US Air Force plans to convert cargo aircraft into 'bomb trucks'

Iran Press TV

Sunday, 01 November 2020 3:52 AM

The US Air Force has awarded major weapons maker Lockheed Martin Corp. $25 million to convert large cargo aircraft such as C-17 Globemaster III into bomb trucks, and plans to hold a demonstration of the capability sometime in 2021.

"The US Air Force Research Laboratory contracting and Strategic Development Planning and Experimentation offices, and Lockheed Martin teams established this new contract in a record time of 30 days, supporting faster prototyping and a shorter timeline to bring this advanced capability to the warfighter in the field," said Lockheed Martin's Advanced Strike System Director Scott Callaway in a press release cited in a Friday report by Military.com news outlet.

The goal of the latest phase of the experiment, according to Lockheed, is to configure the war plane as a bomb truck without extensive modifications on C-17s and C-130 Hercules variants, and to be able to implement the conversion rapidly enough to support airmen overseeing the mission.

It further noted that the war plane would complement traditional fighters and bombers with enhanced long-range standoff weapons to engage multiple targets in a potential battle.

According to the press release, through the Palletized Munitions Experimentation Campaign, Lockheed will demonstrate deploying a case of Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile Extended Range (JASSM-ER) munitions. The flight tests are scheduled to take place next year.

"Despite the Palletized Munitions program being relatively new, it's moving very quickly," Callaway added in the statement.

The report further cited an Air Force official as saying the process would be automated to some degree that the algorithm-configured system controlling the missiles prioritizes its targets based on a target's availability and location. However, crews on board would determine when and where those bombs would drop, and could update targeting information in real time.

Last month, the head of Air Mobility Command Gen. Jacqueline Van Ovost said that the command had recently airdropped simulated palletized Joint Direct Attack Munitions bombs (JDAMs) from a C-17 transport aircraft to test out whether airlifters can reliably deliver large volumes of air-launched weapons.

The test was part of the service's Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS) experiment, designed to leverage air and space platforms to collect, process and share data from around the world.

In later phases, there will be an "actual launch of an actual missile that actually gets fired," Van Ovost said during the Air Force Association's 2020 virtual Air, Space and Cyber conference.

"The concept, once fully matured, is for these munitions to behave just as if they were dropped from a bomber aircraft -- separate from the aircraft, ignite their motors, fly to pre-designated waypoints and altitudes, then strike their targets," Van Ovost added as quoted in the report.

Lockheed conducted tests simulating JASSM-ER drops on both the MC-130 and C-17 this year, according to its news release.

Callaway further explained to multiple media outlets this week that the company and the Air Force are still determining the right number of bombs it should use for the pallet, accounting for factors such as weight, drag and lift required for loadmasters stowing the munitions on board the back of the aircraft.

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