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US Marine Corps contracts Airbus to demonstrate unmanned UH-72

Airbus UH-72 Aerial Logistics Connector cargo UAV is based on the Airbus H145/UH-72 platform. (Airbus US Space and Defense)

US Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR), on behalf of the US Marine Corps (USMC), has signed a Middle Tier Acquisition (MTA) contract for Airbus to demonstrate an unmanned version of its UH-72 Lakota helicopter, the company announced on 14 May.

The helicopters are under consideration for the USMC's Aerial Logistics Connector programme. The unmanned helicopters are to undergo unspecified testing for operational suitability, compared against craft from competitors. A downselect is expected shortly after. Details of deliveries and testing were not immediately available.

Airbus is likely to convert manned H145s into unmanned UH-72s for the programme, the company told Janes on 14 May, but additional helicopters would be newbuilds should Airbus win the contest.

β€œThe Airbus production facility in Columbus, [Mississippi], has capacity for any expected programme of record,” said the company.

The Aerial Logistics Connector programme is one of three unmanned vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) evaluation programmes for the USMC, seeking the greatest capabilities. The service selected the Survice Engineering Company's TRV-150C as its Tactical Resupply Unmanned Aircraft System (TRUAS) for squad-level logistics and is set to test 2 competitors – Kaman's Kargo and Leidos and Elroy Air's Chaparral unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) – for the larger Medium Aerial Resupply Vehicle – Expeditionary Logistics (MARV-EL) programme.

Work on the unmanned UH-72 concept has been ongoing for around a year, Airbus' senior director for business development and strategy Carl Forsling told Janes on 1 May at the Modern Day Marine 2024 convention in Washington, DC, where a model of the concept was displayed.

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