Sikorsky plans to begin construction of an unmanned prototype of its UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter it has been developing for tactical cargo missions, the company announced on May 13. “The autonomous Black Hawk will provide affordable, reliable, high-speed resupply to the warfighter in the harshest conditions at a cost per ton mile that competes with ground convoys,” said company research vice president Mark Miller. Sikorsky and the Army successfully demonstrated the concept in a series of optionally manned tests with a modified UH-60 helicopter earlier this year, according to the company. The company is courting the Defense Department as a development partner on the project and is “prepared to ramp up system conversions per year as demand requires,” said Sikorsky Defense President Samir Mehta. The proposed helicopter would be capable of carrying 9,000 pounds internally or slung under the helo, according to the release.
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.