Without US military helicopters, American forces in the Middle East would be left out to dry in the mountainous desert, being picked off by guerilla attacks and roadside bombs without proper air attack or transportation support. Despite this, the military continues to stubbornly remain with choppers designed around the time of the Vietnam War. This fact is being increasingly exposed by the success of shoddy anti-helicopter methods by Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. As technological revolutions are spreading like wildfire across all areas of society, it stands to reason that US military helicopters will join in high-tech development. The planners and engineers of the military have some tentative blueprints for future choppers like pilot-less and tiltrotor helicopters; aircraft with higher capabilities that can take military helicopter importance to the next level.
The advancement that's first on the mind of the military's science and technology sectors is a plan for a pilot-less craft. Tentatively expected to be revealed in 2013 and used in conflict by 2018, this machine gives us a hazy glimpse of what the future could hold. The fact that it would not have a human pilot is a whole pile of benefits in itself, but what are the actual plans for features of this new device?
This is an epic list of features that US military helicopters may eventually have, but what does it all mean? First of all, this plan is for a helicopter that is composed of pure super-technology. Malfunctions will be detected and repaired easily, sensors and navigation will be almost automated and threat detection and targeting will have unthinkable precision.
Now, in terms of the option for automated or automatic flight, this is where the huge potential is. An automated military helicopter means that the machine doesn't even need to be controlled remotely to carry out missions. While this may be a dystopian futurist's worst nightmare for robot takeover potential, it could open up so many awesome avenues for streamlining military missions. Rather than having to use manpower and resources (and pay in-flight rates to pilots on the ground), they can just control the flight with programming and automation. These machines could have pre-programmed missions and handle the targeting and navigation themselves. Not only that but they could adapt to any changes in the situation within reasonable levels, and probably adapt better and faster than any human pilot could.
But what about the purely mechanical make-up of this future helicopter? Well from pictures that the US military has released, it's a small craft designed for faster speeds and higher capabilities in general. Their first goal was to make it a super-capable military helicopter that will be adaptable to any untold future situations and issues. The most important of the advancements in capability is the tilted rotor set up. This means that the rotors on the chopper first start off horizontally, providing huge power for the important vertical lift that is needed to lift heavy objects. After the lift, the tilted rotors are slowly tilted forward to propel the in-air helicopter at higher speeds and with more agility. The tiltrotor design is a huge improvement over dual rotor designs of current US military helicopters.
So with this US military helicopter being expected as soon as 2018, what does that tell us about the even deeper future? I won't even hazard a guess, but I do know that the future will really challenge the US military to adapt to situations and anti-aircraft technologies that they can't predict. It's going to be interesting to see what this prototype turns out to be when it's finished and what other helicopters will come out of it.