Lockheed Martin/Kaman K-MAX Set to Take Off
Marine Corps plans to deploy first-ever cargo unmanned aircraft system to Afghanistan in November
From tiny robotic cameras to aerial drones, the U.S. military relies heavily on unmanned systems in Afghanistan. And its unmanned inventory is about to become even larger.
In November, the Marine Corps plans to deploy two unmanned K-MAX helicopters – the first-ever cargo unmanned aircraft system (UAS) – developed by Lockheed Martin and Kaman Aerospace to transport supplies to forward operating bases. The deployment team includes a number of Lockheed Martin employees to support K-MAX operations in theater.
"I am very confident in both the deploying team and the K-MAX UAS to successfully perform their missions while deployed,” said Rear Admiral Bill Shannon, Program Executive Officer for Unmanned Aviation and Strike Weapons. “K-MAX has the capability to quickly deliver cargo, thus getting troops off of the roads and allowing them to focus on other missions.”
The Navy awarded Lockheed Martin a $45.8 million contract in 2010 to demonstrate unmanned cargo resupply.
K-MAX features Kaman’s proven high-altitude, heavy-lift K-1200 airframe and Lockheed Martin’s mission management and control systems, enabling autonomous flight in remote environments over large distances. The helicopter can fly day or night and at higher altitudes with a larger payload than any other rotary wing unmanned aerial system. With its four-hook carousel, K-MAX can also supply multiple locations in one flight.
In preparation for the six-month deployment, Lockheed Martin developed a training program with a mix of classroom, simulator and hands-on instruction. K-MAX operators trained using new simulation technology that covered how to launch the UAS and how to receive the cargo.
In September, K-MAX successfully completed a five-day Quick Reaction Assessment (QRA) conducted by the Navy in Arizona to prove its cargo-carrying capability in conditions similar to those it will experience in Afghanistan.
According to the QRA’s formal report, K-MAX exceeded the requirement to deliver 6,000 pounds of cargo per day. The system carried a total of 33,400 pounds of cargo during the QRA, with nearly 3,500 pounds delivered in a single mission.
“Every time this aircraft delivers a payload, we're taking one more truck off the road," said Cpl. Ryan Venem, Detachment Aerial Vehicle Operator, in an Oct. 5 Department of the Navy News article. “That's our goal, reducing IED (improvised explosive device) strikes and taking convoys off the roads.”