FORT WORTH, Texas, April 16 (UPI) -- The U.S. Army aims to introduce an optionally piloted Black Hawk helicopter within the next five years, Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. announced.
Sikorsky said it was teaming with the U.S. Army to develop a demonstration Black Hawk that is unmanned.
"This technology will provide commanders with manning options based on the mission and tactical situation and will significantly reduce crew limitations while increasing Black Hawk helicopter flight operations," said Sikorsky's Innovations Director Chris Van Buiten.
There are more than 3,000 Black Hawks in use in 27 different countries. The helicopter serves in troop transport, attack and assault support missions.
The U.S. Army has logged more than 6 million flight hours on the 1,740 Black Hawks in its current fleet.
U.S. Army Col. Christopher Carlile, director of the unmanned aircraft center for the Army, said at an aviation conference in Texas, that the U.S. military would prefer to update service vehicles than spend money on new programs, Defense News reports.
The optionally piloted Black Hawk is scheduled for introduction in 2015. Plans are in the works for the Apache and Chinook helicopters as well.
The U.S. Army's total Black Hawk helicopter fleet exceeds 1,740 aircraft and has amassed six million flight hours. Sikorsky plans to demonstrate an unmanned Black Hawk by the end of the year.