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Modern Day Marine 2024: Airbus pitches unmanned UH-72 to US Marine Corps

Airbus's unmanned UH-72 concept, displayed at Modern Day Marine 2024. (Janes/Zach Rosenberg)

Airbus unveiled a conceptual unmanned version of the company's UH-72B at Modern Day Marine 2024, which it intends to pitch to the US Marine Corps (USMC) to fulfil its expected unmanned ship-to-shore cargo carrier requirement.

Airbus has been working on the concept for roughly one year, Carl Forsling, senior director for business development and strategy at the company's US branch, told Janes at Modern Day Marine on 1 May.

“We're doing this in response to a Marine Corps requirement under [middle tier acquisition] for rapid prototyping,” Forsling said. Such programmes are intended to field prototypes within two to five years. “We're confident that using an off-the-shelf modification of [our] platform, we can meet those timelines.”

The company's pitch is based partially on commonality with the US Army's UH-72 versions. The service operates more than 400 such helicopters for stateside training and transport, according to Janes All the World's Aircraft: Development & Production , and would allow the US Department of Defense to take advantage of economies of scale.

Modifying the helicopter for its unmanned role would require minimal changes, Forsling said.

“We're going to introduce a fly-by-wire kit to the flight controls, and there's the associated autonomy software and hardware, some civic navigation aids, things like that required for autonomous flight in a military environment,” Forsling said. “But we do have to make some modifications to the cargo compartments, as well as the doors, to accommodate the cargo” the USMC would likely carry.

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