November 8, 2011
This month, troops in Afghanistan should start receiving supplies from unmanned helicopters for the first time. The K-MAX is an autonomous, cargo-carrying aerial vehicle built to be sent into dangerous territory, whether that’s due to enemy fire or rough terrain. That makes it an ideal alternative to convoys of resupply trucks.
The original version of the K-MAX is a piloted helicopter with intermeshing rotors built by Kaman Aerospace. Designed for heavy lifting, it’s often used in commercial logging and construction. Last December, the U.S. Navy awarded Lockheed Martin $45.8 million to develop unmanned versions as part of the military’s Cargo Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) program.
According to the Navy:
Results from the [Quick Reaction Assessment] confirmed that K-MAX exceeded the Navy and Marines’ requirement to carry 6,000 pounds of cargo per day over a five-day period. The system carried a total of 33,400 pounds of cargo during the assessment period, with nearly 3,500 pounds delivered in a single mission.
“K-MAX has the capability to deliver a tremendous amount of cargo over the course of the deployment,” said Maj. Kyle O’Connor, VMU-1 CRUAS Det. officer in charge. “We witnessed firsthand its ability to carry multiple loads to separate locations in a single sortie without being affected by harsh conditions.”
After the successful QRA in September, the Navy announced it would deploy the K-MAX in November for six months to assist with Marine Corps ground and air logistics operations in Afghanistan.