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Unmanned K-MAX helicopter makes first combat cargo flight in Afghanistan

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December 28, 2011

The unmanned K-MAX undergoing testing earlier this year (Image: Lockheed Martin)

The unmanned K-MAX undergoing testing earlier this year (Image: Lockheed Martin)

The unmanned Kaman K-MAX helicopter has made its first combat resupply mission in Afghanistan. Designed to reduce the reliance on truck convoys that are often targeted by IED (improvised explosive device) strikes when resupplying front-line troops in remote areas and manned aircraft that place their crews in danger, the unmanned aircraft is a modified K-MAX intermeshing rotor helicopter with the ability to lift a payload of over 6,000 pounds (2,721 kg).

The aircraft is a joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Kaman Aerospace, with a prototype aircraft for heavy-lift and combat resupply missions first demonstrated to the U.S. Army in 2008. After subsequent testing and earlier this year demonstrating its ability to exceed the Navy and Marines' requirement to deliver 6,000 lbs. of cargo per day over a five day period, Aviation Week reports that two unmanned test flights were flown without a load to one of the forward operating bases in Afghanistan on December 15 and 16.

Following the success of the cargo-less test flights, the first combat resupply mission using a robot helicopter was carried out on December 17, which saw the aircraft haul a sling-load of cargo to an unspecified base.

Two K-MAX helicopters will mainly be operated from a central main operating base, with air vehicle operators (AVOs) also residing at smaller forward operating bases to which cargo will be delivered. And although the unmanned K-MAX removes the helicopter crew from danger, the Marines won't be placing the aircraft at unnecessary risk.

"Most of the missions will be conducted at night and at higher altitudes," said Marine Capt. Caleb Joiner, mission commander. "This will allow us to keep out of small arms range."

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag.   All articles by Darren Quick
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5 Comments

There are two factors that politicians must take into account when considering waging war.

1. The Blood - The unpopularity of body-bags being shipped home

2. The Treasure - The cost of wars

If you can eliminate 1. then voters might just accept 2. - particularly if you have the media on-side.

The US Government is currently investing $Billions in unmanned weapons systems on land, sea and air.

Does this make war less likely or more likely?

RJB
29th December, 2011 @ 01:21 am PST

@RJB We will still have "conflicts", but war will be more unlikely when lives aren't at stake. That's the goal.

Jay Lloyd
29th December, 2011 @ 08:20 am PST

RJB:

"You cannot simultaneously prevent and prepare for war." Albert Einstein

venire23
29th December, 2011 @ 12:08 pm PST

looks like its a great business to build frequency jammers..... free helicopters anyone?

Hilary Albutt
30th December, 2011 @ 05:21 am PST

re; venire23

Albert Einstein was a great physicist, but he seemed to not understand that the only way to stop a bully is to stand up to him.

There are only two ways to prevent wars. The absolute surrender of all you hold sacred, and making those that would attack you know that they would loose.

I prefer the latter.

Slowburn
30th December, 2011 @ 11:59 am PST
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