It will take until the the 2030s for the US to deploy new Vertical Lift systems (twice as fast and all kinds of new technology) to replace existing combat Helicopters on a large scale. In the meantime, the US army can afford to upgrade about 50 helicopters per year with tech like cockpit automation, improved turbine engines, and active protection against incoming missiles.
The Army’s No. 1 need is a new armed reconnaissance helicopter” to replace the retired Kiowa but they don’t have money until we buy out Apaches and we buy out Black Hawks.
There’s no money to develop an all-new scout helicopter until the Army finishes modernizing its existing AH-64 gunships and UH-60 transports. Three Kiowa replacements have already been cancelled and the money plowed back into upgrading existing aircraft: the RAH-66 Comanche, ARH-70 Arapaho, and Armed Aerial Scout. Today, there are 2,135 Black Hawks alone, Gayler said, and the Army can only afford to replace or rebuild at most 50 a year.
Blackhawk helicopters cost $6-10 million each.
Apache helicopters cost $35 million each.
The US army will takes decades fielding technology that will be obsolete long before they are done.
There is a complete myth out there that common must be better.
A force of interchangeable, “modular” brigades made some sense for Afghanistan and Iraq, where the military had to deploy fresh units to replace exhausted ones with as little disruption as possible, year after year after year. But building up identical brigades required shortchanging specialist capabilities required by higher headquarters. In counterinsurgency, an intensely local kind of conflict, the focus on smaller units mostly worked.
One back-to-the-future option under study is reviving the Cold War Armored Cavalry Regiments (ACRs): brigade-size heavy units with their own “organic” infantry, tanks, artillery, and helicopters, designed to scout and fight ahead of the main force. Today’s Armored Brigade Combat Teams (ABCTs) include all three types of ground troops, but no aviation.
Helicopters have been a scarcer and more expensive asset with more intense demands for maintenance and fuel, which is why they are centralized in independent Combat Aviation Brigades – for now.
Larger drones could end up being part of a solution
The civilian Aero-X drone is able to carry up to 140 kilos (310 lbs), at an altitude of 3.7 meters (12 feet), at speeds of up to 72 kph (45 mph) and it cost about $85,000. The US military is beefing it to carry armor and more payload and fly faster. It would be lucky if they could keep the upgraded drone under $1 million a piece.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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