K-MAX Delivers for U.S. Marines

Unmanned cargo helicopter conducts more than 50 missions during first six weeks of operation in Afghanistan



K-MAXs-first-flight_460x300 The two K-MAX unmanned cargo helicopters have flown more than 50 missions and delivered more than 100,000 pounds of cargo to forward operating bases in Afghanistan since it went into service on Dec. 17.

Ben Franklin wasn’t its first boss. Its drivers don’t wear uniforms with brown shorts. The Washington Redskins’ stadium doesn’t carry its name. But like these better known delivery services, the unmanned  K-MAX cargo helicopter is coming through for the U.S. Marines.

The two K-MAX aircraft have flown more than 50 missions and delivered more than 100,000 pounds of meals-ready-to-eat, ammunition, spare parts and other cargo to forward operating bases in Afghanistan through Jan. 31 – six weeks since it went into service on Dec. 17.  Developed by Lockheed Martin and Kaman Aerospace, K-MAX also delivered a 4,200 pound generator in a single load.

“It’s a very exciting time…Everybody’s feeling really good about how it’s going,” said Jim Naylor, Lockheed Martin’s business development director for K-MAX, in a Jan. 25 Vertical Magazine article. “(The two K-MAX aircraft are) performing very well over there and having a lot of success.”

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 areas 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 supply multiple locations in one flight and has a capacity of 6,000 pounds at sea level and 4,000 pounds at 15,000 feet density altitude when operating in mountainous areas such as Afghanistan.

To reduce the number of supply convoys and protect soldiers from insurgents’ increased use of improvised exploding devices (IEDs), the Navy awarded Lockheed Martin a $45.8 million contract in 2010 to demonstrate unmanned cargo transport. 

After K-MAX passed a five-day quick reaction assessment in Arizona last September, the Navy authorized the current six-month deployment to test the aircraft in theater. Upon completion of the deployment, the Navy will decide whether to fully implement K-MAX.

The U.S.  Army also awarded Lockheed Martin and Kaman a $47 million contract last year to develop, demonstrate and deliver autonomous air system technologies in support of cargo missions using K-MAX.