Military budget makes helicopters key element in warfare

businessThough Trump approved a $717 billion NDAA budget for 2019, full funding approval will have to wait until Congress passes the 2019 government budget. As it stands, however, the bill promises to make helicopters a key element in the United State’s defense strategy. With a particular emphasis on anti-submarine technology, these helicopters also represent a sustainable approach to defense based on current military equipment holdings.

Helicopters Meet Submarines

While helicopters are often seen as primarily transport vehicles, ideal for accessing areas without airport access, from a military perspective they’re capable of much more. Specifically, when it comes to hunting enemy submarines, helicopters are ideal weapons because they can typically get closer to the water level to detect submarines and they also operate from ship-borne bases. If they don’t sink the submarine, their own base could go down.

The US military is especially concerned about Russian submarine warfare at present; in fact, all of NATO is concerned about the Russian submarine threat. Luckily, due to improvements made to the systems a few years ago, US helicopters are now designed to track Russian and Chinese submarines. NATO parties have also spent more time practicing submarine tracking and targeting in recent years.

Further Advances Expected

In addition to the improvements made to military helicopters several years ago, the Navy is also scheduled to begin mid-life improvements on anti-submarine warfare equipment beginning in FY 2020. Such improvements will draw on recent technological advances such as Doppler navigation, which will replace earlier systems on the Apache Longbow GPS and INS. Such integrated systems are similar enough to prior GPS systems to minimize training costs and also work with existing communications systems – and like other US military technology, it’s likely to be in demand on the international market.

Competing National Interests

One major concern regarding improved military technology is the fact that very few of these equipment changes are secret in today’s marketplace, and that means other countries want to invest in the same equipment. India, for example, is interested in purchasing MH-60 Romeos, submarine hunting helicopters used by the US military, while the 2019 NDAA actually contained wording prohibiting the US military from doing business with Chinese telecom giant ZTE, before Trump announced the ban would be lifted. When it comes to security and military equipment, secrecy is a thing of the past, and that’s transforming how we prepare for war.

Other Helicopter Advances

In addition to submarine hunting technology, US military helicopters will likely see other technological advances in 2019-2020, including introduction of new self-flying technology that’s been in the works for the past four years, better obstacle avoidance using LIDAR, and tools to prevent helicopter crashes. These new tools are all designed around what the Army calls “mission adaptive autonomy,” which essentially enables the aircraft to take over basic flight mechanisms when the human pilot is needed to perform more complex tasks, such as transporting injured soldiers or providing ground support.

Helicopters rarely get the level of attention that fighter planes do in conversations about military spending, but from a defense perspective they’re equally important, and the 2019 NDAA makes that clear. By prioritizing advancements for existing helicopter technology, the forthcoming military budget should keep costs down while also providing the military with the tools needed to protect our country.

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