K-MAX Takes Road Out of Roadside Bomb Threat

Lockheed Martin-Kaman’s unmanned helicopter  successfully completes Navy’s Quick Reaction Assessment



The military uses everything from sophisticated persistent surveillance systems to bomb sniffing dogs to combat improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in Afghanistan.  To make cargo resupply safer, the Marines want to remove the road from the roadside bomb threat.

To augment the Marines’ ground and air logistics operations, the Navy recently completed a successful five-day Quick Reaction Assessment (QRA) using the unmanned K-MAX helicopter developed by Lockheed Martin and Kaman Aerospace. The QRA significantly advances the Navy’s plan to field a cargo unmanned aerial system (UAS) for a six-month deployment this fall.

"The Quick Reaction Assessment proved sustainment of a cargo-carrying capability in an operational environment,” said Capt. Patrick Smith, Cargo Unmanned Aerial System Service program manager at Patuxent River Naval Air Station in Maryland. "We look forward to deploying a capability that will supplement rotary wing assets and reduce Marine Corps exposure to improvised explosive devices in theater."

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 aircraft can fly day or night and at higher altitudes with a larger payload than any other rotary wing UAS. With its four-hook carousel, K-MAX can also supply multiple locations in one flight.

“The autonomous flying K-MAX is designed to resupply Marines on the battlefield and in remote locations,” said Roger Il Grande, director of Airborne Systems at Lockheed Martin.  “Through various scenarios during QRA, the unmanned K-MAX UAS performed extremely well, exceeding the cargo delivery objectives of the assessment. Demonstrating our team’s capabilities and enhancing mission effectiveness drives a positive outlook for a K-MAX deployment later this year.”

IED attacks in Afghanistan have increased steadily since 2005, soaring to 14,661 in 2010, according to the Joint IED Defeat Organization.  The Navy and Army are looking at K-MAX to reduce the need for convoys.  

The recent QRA was part of the Navy’s 2010, $45.8 million contract with Lockheed Martin for two K-MAX helicopters to demonstrate unmanned cargo resupply.  Earlier this month, the Army awarded Lockheed Martin and Kaman a $47 million contract to develop, demonstrate and deliver autonomous air system technologies in support of cargo missions using K-MAX.