Unmanned K-MAX wins praise for Afghanistan cargo resupply operations
By Richard Scott
In-theatre testing of a Cargo Resupply Unmanned Aerial System (CRUAS) based on the Kaman K-MAX K-2000 commercial heavy-lift helicopter has demonstrated a "viable capability", according to the US Marine Corps (USMC) detachment commander tasked with testing the concept in Afghanistan.
The Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) awarded Lockheed Martin (partnered with Kaman) a USD45.8 million contract in December 2010 to support a USMC evaluation of unmanned cargo resupply. This culminated in the deployment of a marine detachment with Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 1 (VMU-1) to test the capability in Afghanistan from December 2011 to May 2012. The detachment's two-fold mission was to fly routine scheduled cargo UAS missions to build flight hours and gather reliability, and to support the needs of the Marine Corps by delivering cargo via an external sling load.
In a post-deployment briefing at Naval Air Station Patuxent River on 10 July, Major Kyle O'Connor, officer in charge of the VMU-1 Cargo Detachment, said operational use had "proved that Cargo UAS is a viable capability", adding that the optionally manned K-MAX aircraft "was fully mission capable 90 per cent of the time" and required "less than two hours of maintenance per flight hour".196 of 612 words
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