SDPE’s Rapid Dragon Capability Demonstrated in Norway

A palletized effects system falls from the cargo hold of a 352d Special Operations Wing MC-130J Commando II during a live-fire demonstration for ATREUS 22-4 at Andøya Space Defense Range in Norway. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Brigette Waltermire)

The Air Force Rapid Dragon Experimentation Program, led and developed by the Air Force Strategic Development Planning and Experimentation (SDPE) office, part of the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Integrated Capabilities Directorate, in partnership with U.S. Special Operations Command Europe (SOCEUR), successfully completed a live fire of a Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile-Extended Range (JASSM-ER) long-range cruise missile on a Norwegian range. The Rapid Dragon Palletized Effects System, capable of deploying long-range cruise missiles using standard airdrop procedures from a cargo aircraft, was successfully deployed from an MC-130J Commando II.

The operational MC-130J aircrew from the 352nd Special Operations Wing airdropped a Rapid Dragon deployment system containing long-range cruise missiles which were sequentially released on a range over the Norwegian Sea as part of U.S. European Command approved, U.S. Special Operations Command led Operational Series ATREUS.

“Now, more than ever we must take a different approach to accelerating capability to the warfighter,” said AFRL Commander Maj. Gen. Heather Pringle. “Rapid Dragon is a fantastic example of the speed at which technologists and warfighters can work — the design, development, prototyping and experimentation of new capabilities can get to the field on operationally relevant timelines.”

Although the Rapid Dragon Experimentation Program has been focused on kinetic munitions, the program’s efforts are now expanding from Palletized Munitions to Palletized Effects, which include kinetic and non-kinetic munitions; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) platforms; cargo resupply; and humanitarian aid delivery.

ATREUS began in April 2021 to identify and conduct training opportunities on capabilities found throughout the theater that enable response options to the U.S. and NATO allies and partners. Previous ATREUS training events have focused on the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, capability with participation from Romania, the United Kingdom, Sweden, and Latvia.

This is the seventh iteration of ATREUS in the European theater but the first combined and joint effort with participation from ally nations of Norway, Poland, Romania, and the United Kingdom as well as United States Air Force Europe-Air Forces Africa, United States Indo-Pacific Command, Air Force Special Operations Command, U.S. Special Operations Command Pacific, and U.S. Naval Sea Systems Command.