C-17’s Transformation With REVOLVER: From Benevolent Buddha To Hypersonic Behemoth – Analysis


Boeing has introduced the new REVOLVER launcher system. This system is expected to significantly upgrade the C-17 Globemaster III, allowing it to carry powerful hypersonic missiles.

This state-of-the-art launcher features two drums that load one after the other and an electromagnetic catapult. This setup enables it to swiftly fire up to 12 Boeing X-51A Waverider hypersonic missiles. The drums hold the missiles and the catapult launches them rapidly, allowing the launcher to deploy all 12 missiles in a short period. Thanks to this design, each missile can be launched quickly and precisely, enhancing the USA’s air strike capabilities.

The C-17 Globemaster III is the US Air Force’s second-largest aircraft after the C-5M Super Galaxy. It is often called the ‘Buddha’ because of its strong and sturdy look. The C-17 Globemaster III can carry 102 paratroopers, 54 medical patients, or 85 tons of cargo, including tanks. It has a crew of three and can fly from the US to nearly any place in the world with mid-air refuelling.

This flexible military transport plane is great at moving troops, carrying out medical evacuations and transporting cargo. The C-17 can carry about 172,000 pounds (78,000 kg) of cargo and has a range of 2,765 miles (4,450 km), making it crucial for worldwide military missions. Advanced systems, such as the REVOLVER launcher, boost its effectiveness in modern military logistics.

Boeing has shared virtual images and videos of the REVOLVER launcher system to demonstrate its capabilities. Although it has not been installed in the C-17 Globemaster III yet, these visuals highlight its potential, according to a report by Interesting Engineering. The previews show how the system can quickly launch hypersonic missiles and hint at its possible impact on air combat.

Modern Warfare with X-51A

The system can launch the X-51A, a hypersonic cruise missile with a scramjet engine that travels faster than a speed of Mach 5 (over 6,400 km/h). This will allow for accurate long-distance strikes.

Over the coming years, test and integration  of the X-51A Waverider and the REVOLVER launcher on the C-17 aircraft will demonstrate advancements that have been made in military technology. This system aims to enhance military operations by quickly launching high-speed missiles and establishing new defence standards.

US Edge in Pacific Arms Race

The US Air Force, in March, for the first time, tested a hypersonic cruise missile in the Pacific. This move is viewed as a message to China, showing that the US is still competitive in an area where China is thought to have an edge.

On March 17, a B-52 bomber from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam launched “a fully operational hypersonic missile prototype”, an air force spokesperson told CNN. Hypersonic glide vehicles travel faster than Mach 5, at about 4,000 miles/hour (over 6,400 km/h), making them hard to detect and intercept. They can also change direction and altitude, which helps them avoid current missile defence systems.

US officials recognize that China and Russia are aggressively advancing in hypersonic technology. The non-partisan group—which is an organization that does not support, or align with, any political party or agenda and aims at providing unbiased and objective information, or advocacy, on specific issuesthe Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance, reports that, since 2014, China has been testing hypersonic glide vehicles that can carry both nuclear and conventional warheads.

Girish Linganna

Girish Linganna is a Defence, Aerospace & Political Analyst based in Bengaluru. He is also Director of ADD Engineering Components, India, Pvt. Ltd, a subsidiary of ADD Engineering GmbH, Germany. You can reach him at: [email protected]

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