Could an “Avengers”-style Helicarrier soon become a reality for the U.S. military?
Essentially aircraft carriers that can fly, Helicarriers featured in Marvel’s 2012 movie “The Avengers,” and, more recently, in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.”
The Helicarrier serves as an airborne base for S.H.I.E.L.D., as well as a landing and takeoff platform for aircraft.
DARPA, home to many of the military’s real life Tony Stark-style innovators, has issued a request to the public for ideas to help create “aircraft-carriers in the sky.”
Outreach to non-traditional contributors like this is called a Request For Information (RFI), and aims to accelerate and enhance development of cutting-edge projects. Welcoming unconventional contributors is smart way to rapidly create “leap-ahead” tech.
Rather than building a helicarrier-type craft from scratch, the initiative focuses on taking current large aircraft, like the C-130 transport plane, and transforming them into a sort of flying aircraft carrier.
Unmanned air systems, often called drones, would be carried, launched from, and land on these flying carriers.
DARPA is also interested in technologies that could potentially enhance manned and unmanned aircraft as well.
So why would the military be interested in creating flying aircraft carriers?
U.S. manned aircraft are very often essential to military missions. However, deploying them means putting expensive aircraft at risk. More importantly, it also puts U.S. pilots at risk.
Dispatching small, unmanned, aircraft would reduce these risks, although drones lack the speed, endurance and range of larger aircraft.
The solution? Utilize large aircraft to support the deployment of smaller unmanned ones. The larger aircraft can carry its smaller counterparts, providing the necessary speed, endurance and range.
The unmanned aircraft could deploy on a range of missions, such intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR). A flying carrier would also enable long-distance operations.