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Boeing: Black's the new black for black-helicopter projects

A160T robot whispercopter in DARPA man-sniffer tests

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US aerospace colossus Boeing has revealed plans for its unmanned whisper-mode stealth helicopter, the A160T, to return to flight following a recent crash. The revolutionary, groundbreaking aircraft (cough) pranged itself during test flights last year, but Boeing believes that the software problems leading to the crash have been rectified.

The A160T robot whisper-copter

The secret, stealthy whisper-mode droid supercopter.

Marketing have had a word about the colour, apparently.

In other programme developments, the company announced that the A160T - intended for service with a variety of secretive US government organisations - would soon adopt a new colour scheme. Thus far, the stealthy crewless superchopper has been available only in white, which would clearly limit sales among the traditionally sombrely-clad operatives of the clandestine services. In a doubtless marketing-driven move, Boeing have now announced that the A160T will soon be available in black.

In a recent report from Aviation Week, Boeing have also announced news of a veritable technical feast of A160T features and add-ons, sure to create a stir of excitement in the black-kevlar/black-suit communities and their tinfoil clad groupies.

Firstly, specifics have been given on the A160T's optimum-speed-rotor whisper-mode technology. Most helicopters' blades spin at a predetermined rate, set for best performance at full forward speed. This means that they waste energy - and produce unnecessary racket - when hovering or moving slowly. Not so the A160T, which can vary its rotor rate to suit its speed, and so lurk or sneak about relatively quietly - not unlike the black helicopters in the film Conspiracy Theory, for instance. It seems that the A160T is "roughly four times quieter" than comparable conventional choppers.

Another cool feature is the unmanned helicopter's ability to carry various quite heavy payloads, perhaps including deadly assassination or kidnap teams from the various shy and retiring super-trooper formations of the US Special Operations Command (SOCOM). The lack of any pilots would remove the need for nonexistent Team-Six*, Delta or Activity operatives to eliminate or otherwise silence potentially loose-lipped stickjockeys following missions deemed retrospectively never to have occurred. Moves may even be afoot to do away with the ghost-troopers themselves. According to Av Week:

One of the initial test vehicles has ... flown with an aerodynamically-shaped pod large enough to evacuate a wounded soldier or transport a small robotic vehicle ... Other tasks will include demonstrations of a 1000lb payload cargo pod for SOCOM ...

This seems to indicate that, rather than the traditional secret strongarm squad, the black helicopters of the future may instead be dropping off some kind of droid implementation force for the discreet disappearances of tomorrow.

Boeing also confirmed that a range of exciting new man-tracker sensors would be deployed aboard the whispering, robotic chopper-noir air armadas of the future. Most of these are being developed by DARPA**, the US military boffin farm which likes to take the phrase "bleeding edge technology" literally.

It seems that the "Forester" foliage-penetrating radar, designed to peer beneath jungle canopies and other woodsy top cover to track individuals walking around on foot, will fly aboard the A160T. So will the Argus-IS multiplex aerial peeper machine, intended to allow many more people, cars, buildings etc to be simultaneously monitored from a single lurking sky-spy. (At present, it would take a prohibitively large number of aircraft to watch and track every suspect in many cities of interest to the US authorities.)

Needless to say, there will also be A160Ts tooled up with Hellfire laser-guided missiles, should a chance come up for a bit of regime-decapitation or whatnot.

The first chance to see the A160T in its new, more appropriate livery (without mysteriously disappearing or having your memory erased, that is)? This year's Farnborough airshow in the UK, apparently.®

*We too have heard that the former SEAL Team Six is nowadays officially DEVGRU, following some unpleasantness about budgets and expenses a while back. We understand, however, that there are still those in the SOCOM community for whom it will always be Team Six.

**Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency.

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