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Robo-Chopper to Supply USMC

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posted on Aug, 19 2009 @ 09:23 AM
Unmanned helicopters, designed mainly for resupply, but some also capable of firing on targets, are already seeing limited use, such as the SnowGoose in Afghanistan. (the Canadians make this one!) Link to MMIST - The Manufacturer of the SnowGoose

The U.S. Marines are looking for unmanned supply helicopters that can deliver ten tons of supplies across distances of 150 miles in 24 hours; they also have to be able to hover at high altitudes (say, up in the Hindu Kush mountains)

Homeland Security Newswire

The competition seems to have been narrowed down to two of the QUITE a few that are available.

Page notes that there are, in fact, a few robot air vehicles out there potentially able to tackle such tasks. The Fire Scout droid kill-chopper, the A160T Hummingbird unmanned whisper-copter, and the MMIST SnowGoose robo motor'chute all came forward, as did an unmanned version of the Kaman K-MAX intermeshing-rotor whirlybird.

We now know that the Fire Scout is out, as is the SnowGoose. The latter, while it has already been used for Afghan resupply by U.S. special forces, was perhaps always on a hiding to nothing. It is Canadian, not U.S., made, and it fails to meet the strict letter of the requirement as it ca not hover. Makers MMIST had spoken of modifying the existing parawing, perhaps to gyrocopter configuration -- and will no doubt have pointed out that the SnowGoose can lift off without trouble from a moving Humvee or ship -- but evidently this did not convince the Marines.

With the Fire Scout also out of the running for undisclosed reasons, that leaves the A160T and K-MAX -- perhaps coincidentally the offerings from the two biggest U.S. defense firms, Boeing and Lockheed.

Battlefield automation and unmanned resupply are set to increase the abilities of our war fighters. As long as we can be sure these things are for helping our guys win the battles, whether they are justified battles are not, I suppose it's a good thing.

When they start hovering over our cities for 18 hours, looking into our homes with thermal cameras, We have a problem.

The A160T is said to offer exceptional high-altitude performance, deriving from its cunning variable-speed rotor tech. It is also touted for its quietness, though this isn't a requirement in this context.

The K-MAX, already in widespread service as a manned chopper and lately touted in a robotized version by Lockheed, is also noted for its lifting ability. Its two intermeshing rotors avoid the need for a tail prop, channeling all its power into lift and letting it carry more than its own weight. The intermesh approach with two adjacent rotor hubs is said by its designers to be simpler than coaxial twin rotors as seen on some Russian machines and the Sikorsky X3 high-speed prototype.

Pages says that the Marines have now given Boeing $500,000 and Lockheed $860,000 further to demonstrate their robo-lifters, with a February deadline. The winning aircraft -- assuming one or both actually shows it is ready for combat -- will immediately be purchased in some numbers and sent to Afghanistan, where the Marines are now heavily engaged in the war-torn south alongside British and some other allied troops.

I'm in the wrong business. If they can prove they work, these things will be sold immediately after they get built. Apparently the Marines in Afghanistan are tired of humping in supplies.

Perhaps instead of creating new weapons and aircraft to test against the people of Afghanistan, everyone could just come home, have a beer, eat a burger and watch some football or something.

Of course, something about them just inspires confidence.

SnowGoose Dropping leaflets as part of PsyOps
The K-Max Unmanned, slinging a load
A loaded out 160T
Fire Scout

Good luck with those, guys! Just keep them out of MY backyard.

Links to Manufacturers:

Kayman Aerospace - K-Max

Northrop Grumman - Fire Scout

Boeing -A160 Hummingbird

MMIST (Canada) - SnowGoose

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