K-MAX Staying Until the End

U.S. Marine Corps indefinitely extends unmanned cargo helicopter in theater

K-MAX Called “a rock star of Marine Corps unmanned aviation,” the K-MAX unmanned cargo helicopter will operate in Afghanistan until the end of Operation Enduring Freedom. Photo courtesy USMC.

K-MAX may not have any gold records or millions of adoring fans like ABBA, INXS or R.E.M., but the unmanned cargo helicopter is making a name for itself in Afghanistan.

"It is kind of a rock star of Marine Corps unmanned aviation for the past year or so," said Maj. Dave Funkhouser, unmanned aviation capabilities integration officer, during an Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International conference on Feb. 13.

Deployed in Afghanistan for more than a year, the U.S. Marine Corps recently requested K-MAX stay in-theater through the end of the Operation Enduring Freedom.

Developed by Lockheed Martin and Kaman Aerospace, K-MAX protects soldiers by reducing the number of truck re-supply convoys and their troop escorts, which are frequent targets of improvised explosive devises and insurgent attacks. Coupled with increased re-supply efficiency during deployment, the life-saving capability was the main reason for the extended deployment.

K-MAX was deployed to Afghanistan in November 2011, and a month later became the first unmanned helicopter to deliver cargo in theater. Since then, the two K-MAX helicopters have flown more than 1,000 missions and delivered more than three million pounds of supplies. K-MAX’s deployment has already been extended twice so far.

Featuring Kaman’s proven high-altitude, heavy-lift K-1200 airframe and Lockheed Martin’s mission management and control systems, K-MAX can fly day or night over large distances and at higher altitudes with a larger payload than any other rotary wing unmanned aerial system.

K-MAX recently won Aviation Week’s Laureate Award in the defense category for innovation, achievement and broad-reaching progress in aviation and aerospace.

Posted on March 26, 2013