Oct. 28 (UPI) -- Lockheed Martin Corp. announced the award of a $25 million contract on Wednesday supporting the use of U.S. Air Force cargo planes to deploy missiles.
The contract was issued by the Strategic Development Planning and Experimentation Office, and is meant to support the fourth phase of the Palletized Munitions Experimentation Campaign, Lockheed said in a press release.
The campaign is meant to investigate, and test, the idea of delivering large volumes of air-launched weapons via airlifters.
The system uses C-17 and C-130 cargo planes, rolling the packaged missiles onto the planes for high-altitude airdrops to locations where they are needed.
"Initial studies show that airlifters have the potential to deploy large quantities of Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile Extended Range missiles, providing a significant increase in long-range standoff scale and complementing traditional strike and bomber aircrafts," Lockheed said in a statement.
The Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile Extended Range, or JASSM-ER, is a long-range, conventional, air-to-ground missile used by the United States and allied forces to destroy high-value and well-defended targets.
"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 company said.
Tests with simulated weapons earlier this year demonstrated the feasibility of packing JASSM-ER missiles into modular containers atop standard shipping pallets, and then delivering them through airdrops.
"A Palletized Munitions capability could enable various airlift aircraft to employ a range of weapons en masse via a self-contained, roll-on/roll-off palletized system, and may offer an alternative way for the Air Force to bring more mass to the fight," Dr. Dean Evans of the SDPE said after a test in September.
"The successful demo represents a key step in SDPE's Palletized Munitions Experimentation Campaign, which will determine if the Palletized Munitions concept is feasible and provides a competitive advantage for the warfighter."
The first-of-its-kind test was conducted at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.
The contract announced Wednesday includes a system-level demonstration in 2021 and continuing research of the program's viability.