Army content to sit on cargo UAS sidelines

Army content to sit on cargo UAS sidelines

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Army aviation leaders have paid close attention to the Lockheed Martin controllers who have flown about 750,000 pounds of cargo for Marines in Afghanistan since Dec. 17 aboard the company’s K-MAX unmanned helicopter.

The service, however, remains non-committal to the program saying it will only continue to observe the program. Marine officials, on the other hand, continue to embrace the cargo helicopters that keep convoys off the road and manned helicopters free to fly Marines around the battlefield.

Lockheed Martin sent two K-MAX helicopters to southern Afghanistan that have already flown more than 250 missions. The unmanned helicopters flew over 14,000 pounds of cargo in just one day.


The K-MAX helicopters will stay in Afghanistan as long as the Marine Corps wants them, said Jeanine Matthews, Lockheed Martin’s business development director for Integrated Defense Technologies. Lockheed Martin is running on a month-to-month lease for the unmanned helicopters.

Lockheed Martin controllers fly almost all of the missions, but Marines have learned how they operate by watching, Matthews said. The development of the K-MAX continues, but a formal training program has not yet been developed for Marines to start flying them without the help of contractors.

The Army has not contacted Lockheed Martin to set up an agreement to lease the K-MAX to deliver cargo in Afghanistan for Army units, Matthews said. Last year, engineers at the Army’s Maneuver Battle Lab held a series of user assessments on the K-MAX at Fort Benning, Ga., in the Annual Expeditionary Warrior Experiment.

It appears the Army still wants to know what the defense industry can deliver. Service acquisition officials released in January a request for information for a cargo UAS that can travel 250 knots with a range of 300 nautical miles that can carry up to 8,000 pounds.

Army plans outline a strategy to deliver a cargo UAS in seven to ten years. Some questioned at the Army Aviation Association of America’s annual conference here whether that timeline should be accelerated if the K-MAX continue to perform well.

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I’m curious as to if/when they will get unmanned K-Max certified for use on the flight deck of USNS Lewis and Clarke (T-AKE-1) class of selective offload dry cargo ships. Seems like a good combo for resupply direct from a seabase.

Also curious as to if/when they are going to get around to weaponizing these. Its not fast, but it is fuel efficient and can lift a lot more than the MQ-88 Fire Scout can lift.

…And I’m curious if the US Army is just too wary of the notion of another aerial cargo system, seeing as how the USAF jumped in and stuffed up their whole JCA program.

Guess the admin is an osprey fan. if the marines hadn’t wasted their money buying ospreys, they wouldn’t need a different helicopter to haul equipment for them.

I guess you missed the part where the Osprey is being used mostly to haul troops and not sling-loaded supplies and is leaps and bounds above the helicopter it replaced. If they find an efficient way of hauling supplies from A to B, then they can save the Osprey for more urgent and appropriate tasks.

Dont matter now UH-60s and UH-47s can work for now just like most Army subjects cost more to operate. Overall not too bad to wait till the problems with UAS is solved.

Kind of sounds like that’s inviting good ol “Mission Creep”

The K-Max would do 250 kts with a pusher prop. One more competitor for the crappy V-22.

If you cannot travel the roads 10 years on, Afghanistan is lost. I am being serious on this. 10 years on and it isn’t safe enough to resupply by road. Do we need any other metrics by which to measure a lack of progress in Afghanistan. Oh, and manned helos are too dangerous now too…so, no pilots anymore. Skies not safe either. Oh, fast forward another 10 years and will it be safe for our invisible robot soldiers to remain isolated on the highest peaks of Afghanistan where a human would struggle to survive? If we can freely operate robots above 10,000ft, then victory is ours!

@Dfens: I must draw to your attention that in the Simpsons Movie, V-22s deployed the giant glass dome that covered the town of Springfield. I’d like to see the crappy little K-Max do that.

I saw the movie, well, most of it, and learned nothing. I have no defense.

The Boeing A160 is competing against the Kmax? The A160 top speed is 140 knots? So neither the Kmax or the A160 is fast enought to meet the Army target of 250 knots. It looks like the choices are tiltrotor, or compound helicopter Sikorsky X2, Eurocopter X3.

You’re over simplifying the issue.

“Safe” and war don’t mix. We can go anywhere we want in Afghanistan we are just extremely sensitive to casualties and unwilling to attack the enemy where they are, Pakistan. The enemy knows this.

I’m all for robots when they make sense. The skies being dangerous isn’t the only driving force.

Uh, it’s CH47 not UH and they are exponentially cheaper to operate/buy than CH53’s and Ospreys. The Blackhawk is a little more expensive to operate than the UH-1N yet carries twice as much and only costs 10% more. There’s a lesson there.

250 knots? That’s pushing it. Not even the AH-56 could reach that speed. The X2 can only due to its rotor configuration and recent developments. (composite blades, etc.)

Besides, when carrying external cargo you’re not going to get much of a speed boost anyway. And carrying external cargo is exactly what the K-Max is built for, I don’t think there’s room to carry anything internally.

The K-Max’s beauty is in it’s simplicity, ease of operation, and reliability, no need for a pusher prop.

It doesn’t need a pusher prop unless it wants to do 250 kts? Maybe next time you post you’ll have something to say.

I am not certain that you have a fundamental understanding of the differences between land-based and ship-based aircraft. Aboard ship one needs to be concerned about corrosion from salt water and the space taken up by the aircraft (square and cubic feet). Marine aviation assets are optimized to operate from ships.

Not only doesn’t he understand the difference he missed the Seasame St. episode on some numbers are bigger than others.

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