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Lockheed Martin, US Air Force partner to convert airlifters to strike platforms

The US Air Force Strategic Development Planning and Experimentation (SDPE) Office awarded Lockheed Martin a US$25 million contract to support the next phase of the service’s Palletized Munitions Experimentation Campaign for airlifter platforms like the C-17 Globemaster and C-130J Super Hercules.

The US Air Force Strategic Development Planning and Experimentation (SDPE) Office awarded Lockheed Martin a US$25 million contract to support the next phase of the service’s Palletized Munitions Experimentation Campaign for airlifter platforms like the C-17 Globemaster and C-130J Super Hercules.

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 stand-off scale and complementing traditional strike and bomber aircraft.

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This innovative approach enables warfighters to launch offensive operations from a greater number of airfields and engage a larger number of near-peer adversarial targets. The fourth phase includes a system-level demonstration in 2021 and continues to assess the potential to deliver large volumes of air-launched weapons via airlifters.

Scott Callaway, Lockheed Martin Advanced Strike Systems director, explained, "The US 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 to bring this advanced capability to the warfighter in the field."

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.

Phase I successfully accomplished five high-altitude airdrops from an MC-130J (manufactured by Lockheed Martin) and a C-17 earlier this year using simulated weapons. During this effort, the US Air Force tested the suitability of launching JASSM-ERs from an airlifter.

JASSM is a long-range, conventional, air-to-ground, precision standoff missile for the US and allied forces. Designed to destroy high-value, well-defended, fixed and relocatable targets, JASSM’s significant standoff range keeps aircrews well out of danger from hostile air defence systems.

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A 2,000-pound class weapon with a penetrator/blast fragmentation warhead, JASSM employs precision routing and guidance in adverse weather, day or night, using a state-of-the-art infrared seeker in addition to the anti-jam GPS to find a specific aimpoint on the target. Its stealthy airframe makes it extremely difficult to defeat.

JASSM is integrated on the US Air Force's B-1B, B-2, B-52, F-16 and F-15E. JASSM-ER is integrated on the B-1B, the F-15E and is currently completing integration for the internal bay and wings of the B-52H, and F-16C/D. Internationally, JASSM is carried on the F/A-18A/B and the F-18C/D aircraft.

Future integration efforts will focus on the US and international versions of Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II fighter aircraft and other international platforms. 

Headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland, Lockheed Martin is a global security and aerospace company that employs approximately 110,000 people worldwide and is principally engaged in the research, design, development, manufacture, integration and sustainment of advanced technology systems, products and services.

Lockheed Martin, US Air Force partner to convert airlifters to strike platforms
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