The U.S. Marine Corps has hauled more than 1 million pounds of food, fuel and equipment using the K-MAX unmanned helicopter in Afghanistan since December, and there’s more to come. The aircraft’s operational evaluation was set to end in June, but the Corps announced May 8 that it was extending the deployment until Sept. 30.
A joint effort between Lockheed Martin and Kaman Aerospace, the K-MAX has managed to ferry 28,800 pounds in a single day in southern Afghanistan and has operated at less than one maintenance man-hour per flight hour, according to a statement released by Lockheed.
Two K-MAX UAVs were sent to Afghanistan in November and began flying missions Dec. 17. Marine Maj. Kyle O’Connor, who is commanding the Marines involved in the deployment, said in the statement that “K-MAX has proven its value to us in-theater, enabling us to safely deliver cargo to forward areas.”
Using the aircraft to move equipment to small forward operating bases has taken Marines off the roads and thus eliminated their exposure to roadside bombs and ambushes.
The K-MAX is able to carry 6,000 pounds of cargo at sea level and more than 4,000 pounds at 10,000 feet of altitude, and is equipped with a four-hook carousel to drop loads at more than one location.
The Army has also expressed interest in the K-MAX. In January, the service released a request for information to industry, looking for an unmanned aircraft system that can deliver cargo up to 300 nautical miles at airspeeds of at least 250 knots with vertical takeoff and lift capability. The system must be able to carry 5,000 to 8,000 pounds, according to the document.