WEBSTER FIELD, Md., 1 Aug. 2012. U.S. Marine Corps officials have extended the deployment of the K-MAX Cargo, an unmanned aerial system (UAS) and reported to be the first unmanned helicopter to deliver cargo and resupply troops in a combat zone. The Marine Corps supplies forward operating bases with K-MAX, rather than with a ground convoy or manned aircraft, to reduce the threat posed to personnel by improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
K-MAX Cargo, jointly designed and developed by Lockheed Martin (NYSE:LMT) in Bethesda, Md., and Kaman Aerospace (NYSE:KAMN) in Bloomfield, Conn., will remain in service in Afghanistan through March 2013. The approved deployment extension includes an option to extend its service in theater through Sept. 2013.
"K-MAX has proven its value as a reliable cargo resupply aircraft and an asset that saves lives," explains Vice Adm. David Architzel, commander of Naval Air Systems Command, which manages the K-MAX program for the Marine Corps. "The use of this aircraft eliminates the need for manned ground convoys, reducing the number of our warfighters exposed to improvised explosive devices."
The K-MAX program, developed to satisfy a Joint Urgent Operational Need Statement generated by the Marine Corps in 2010, has flown 485 sorties, 525 hours, and lifted more than 1.6 million pounds of cargo since it arrived in theater in Nov. 2011, reveals a spokesperson.
In May, the K-MAX helicopter performed a "hot hook-up," whereby personnel attached cargo to the unmanned aircraft while in hover mode. That capability is used regularly to perform retrograde missions (when cargo is carried on the return flight as well), increasing the efficiency of the K-MAX, the spokesperson adds.