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Published: Thursday, January 30, 2014 at 04:53 PM.

Some of the early transport helicopters were supplemented with machine guns and rocket pods that added an assault role to the craft.

“In the mid-1960s, the first helicopter gunship was developed and that was the AH-1 Cobra and the Marine Corps bought those and employed them in Vietnam,” Allison said. “They have proven to be a real asset to infantry troops in combat in providing close air support.”

Meanwhile, the Osprey has served as an upgrade to the CH-46 helicopter, allowing for greater range, faster speeds and more troop capacity.

“In a lot of ways, it’s a game-changer because of the speed and the range it has,” Kristy said. “The Marine Corps is really coming to grips now with how many new opportunities the Osprey opens up for long-range and high-speed missions. We can now deploy much farther inland than we could ever go before with the (CH-)46. We can get there faster. It really changes a lot of what the (Marine Expeditionary Unit) capabilities truly are.”

Along with the Osprey, the Marine Corps continues to upgrade with newer models of the Cobra and Huey helicopters, and the future could include even more innovations.

“Much farther down range, maybe 20 or 30 years, I think it’s highly likely you will see some type of tilt-rotor gunship in some form,” Kristy said. “The Osprey today can fly much farther and faster than any of its escorts, so I think you will see some development of that. It may not be manned. It’s likely you will see an unmanned tilt-rotor escort gunship of some ilk.”

The helicopter also provides disaster relief, most recently with Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.

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