U.S. tested the first unmanned Black Hawk with UAVs within range

WASHINGTON – For the first time, the US Army conducted flight tests of an autonomously controlled helicopter with two drones, learned BulgarianMilitary.com, citing sources. According to Flight Global, the test was conducted on November 1 by the US Department of Defense’s Advanced Research Projects Agency DARPA and was part of the Project Convergence exercise, which was conducted at the Yuma test site in the southern Arizona desert.

These exercises were aimed at studying how autonomous UH-60s can land, protect and replenish troops – so outline the purpose of these tests in DARPA. Such helicopters will be able to perform dangerous missions without any risk to the lives of pilots and crew.

The test scenario was as follows: a detachment of American troops was in the rear of the enemy and needed additional equipment, but the flight routes were targeted by enemy “anti-aircraft guns”, which made the mission too dangerous for US Army pilots.

Under this scenario, the Black Hawk helicopter for the first time performed an autonomous replenishment mission, as well as for the first time making an autonomous landing in an adverse area. This is made possible by the ALIAS system, which allows even the oldest model of this type – the UH-60A – to fly autonomously.

While the Black Hawk was flying along a certain route, two Altius-600 drones were deployed from the helicopter – also autonomously. They flew around the battlefield, providing identification and reconnaissance of targets, as well as monitoring the situation.

China copied Black Hawk

The Chinese state television China Central Television (CCTV) broadcasted a program about a medium-sized multi-role helicopter Harbin Z-20. This machine, whose appearance has been known for several years, but was presented to the public for the first time during last year’s parade, is now officially anointed as the future workhorse of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, as we reported in November last year.

The Harbin Z-20 helicopter is a medium-sized transport machine with a maximum take-off weight of 10 tons and the ability to operate from bases at an altitude of up to 4,000. meters above sea level. According to official information, the prototype first took to the air in December 2013. After his first photos appeared, it turned out to be visually very similar to the popular Sikorsky S-70. This was not very surprising as the Chinese had acquired a civilian version of the Black Hawk since the 1980s. 23 copies are in the state of the People’s Liberation Army of China, and they are also used by the Hong Kong police. So Harbin had access to this design.

A kind of surprise, however, are the declarations of the main designer of the Z-20 – Deng Jinghui. In an interview with CCTV, he said that it will be the most popular helicopter in the Chinese armed forces and will be used for a variety of tasks in the army, air force, navy, but also in the police. These declarations are not empty – the machine was to be successfully tested in various climatic conditions.

In his opinion, the structure also has great prospects when it comes to export markets. This is not surprising given the still relatively low prices of Chinese products, in this case lowered by the economies of scale achieved by own-consumption production. As Deng Jinghui said – the Z-20 should be ordered by the domestic army and services in a number comparable to the American UH-60 Black Hawk. It would probably mean the purchase of 2-3 thousand copies of these machines that would probably be produced for the next decades.

F-35 Lightning can be refueled by a drone

As we reported in September this year, the next, third operation related to refueling from the MQ-25 Stingray unmanned aerial vehicle was a success. The fifth-generation fighter, the F-35C, joined the group of planes that refueled with the MQ-25, i.e. the F / A-18 Super Hornet and the E-2D Hawkeye.

The event in question took place on Monday, September 13, during a three-hour operation over St. Louis, Illinois, at an altitude of just over three kilometers. The F-35C, piloted by a US Navy pilot, approached the Boeing T-1 [or MQ-25] unmanned aerial vehicle and maintained a steady speed of about 417 kilometers per hour.

As in previous operations, also this time, before the refueling itself, the systems were tested and the UAV itself was evaluated, after which the man-operated machine connected to the fuel line of the above-mentioned machine, and the ground drone operator started the refueling procedure. Traditionally, telemetry has been collected so that Boeing can continue to work on updating the MQ-25 software.

It is worth adding that this was the third case in the entire history of refueling with drones. The first one took place in June this year, when the F / A-18 Super Hornet pilot did it, also refueling from the Stingray. For this purpose, the ARS tank was used, which was previously used by the airport F / A-18F Super Hornet for refueling other machines.

The second refueling took place last month. At that time, the E-2 Hawkeye naval early warning aircraft was taking fuel. The operation took place during a six-hour flight. US Navy aviation pilots were drawn from the VX-20 Special Evaluation Squadron.

As NAVAIR added, the tests of the T1 drone will continue over the next few months. They assume, inter alia, operating the MQ-25 from an aircraft carrier. And next year, Boeing intends to hand over-improved development versions to the army for further testing.

The US Navy Aviation plans to acquire 72 MQ-25A Stingray drones, the cost of the program was estimated at $ 13 billion. They will operate on the following US aircraft carriers: USS Dwight D. Eisenhower and USS George H.W. Bush. The first MQ-25 delivered to the US Navy is expected to be operational in 2024. According to US Navy requirements, the Stingray is to move 6,300 kg of fuel within 500 miles of the aircraft carrier. At the same time, it is expected that the MQ-25 will increase the range of impact of the carrier’s strike group by another 300 to 400 nautical miles.


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