Lockheed touts Army K-MAX demonstration

Lockheed touts Army K-MAX demonstration

Despite what has mostly been a lukewarm response by the Army, at least in public, Lockheed Martin is not giving up its dream of a fleet of green K-MAX cargo helicopters.

The company announced Monday that K-MAX is doing well in a series of tests as part of a demonstration contract awarded last year. Specifically, the unmanned helo was able to make a series of deliveries and to test out a new set of beacons that help the aircraft find its way. Per Lockheed:

The U.S. Army Aviation Applied Technology Directorate ran a beacon navigation demonstration on April 17, requiring the K-MAX to make ten precise autonomous cargo drops to pre-programmed coordinates. The results were outstanding – all ten deliveries were made within the threshold three meters, and two drops were made within the one meter objective designated zone. K-MAX also performed a precision landing without the beacon, with similarly exact results.

The beacons provide K-MAX with improved accuracy, allowing the aircraft to deliver critical cargo to remote sites within three meters of the designated drop-off point. Deliveries of cargo as large as a compact car can be placed down with pinpoint accuracy, even at night or in harsh weather.

Two unmanned K-MAX are currently deployed in Afghanistan and have surpassed the one-million pound mark in cargo lifted, by aircraft boasting more than 95 percent mission capability. This beacon demonstration provides the Marines additional data as they continue to explore the tremendous utility of the K-MAX. The beacons will be fielded with the Marines, who recently extended the deployment of the aircraft from June to September 2012.

Lockheed probably hopes September is not the end of the line for K-MAX or unmanned cargo helicopters in Afghanistan, but whatever happens with the Marines, there are still some Army milestones down the road. Monday’s announcement said the company will make two more big demonstrations in April 2013 and January 2014, so there’s more time for officials to keep making their sales pitch.

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I could envision a square frame being designed, by which 4x K-MAX could be enabled to fly in close formation (in concert) and in conjoined effort, jointly lift a fairly large, single-slung load. Similar to what say a CH-47 would carry as a slung load? How much could a fleet of these save the Army (and Marines) annually in regular cargo transport costs? It’s an interesting paradigm worth exploring and contemplating regardless of how new, unconventional and still unproven it is.

Less lift at a greater price — its the wave of the future.

Hope it works as a bi-service chopper looks like a helpful tool in combat.

It’s been done, and hasn’t worked too well.

The problem is every single one of those K-MAXes would be critical to maintaining flight. A failure of any one helicopter (engine, rotor, etc) would bring them all down, essentially making the vehicle 25% as reliable as a single K-MAX, which is at the wrong end of the reliability spectrum.

There is this chopper already in service. Its dirt cheap. Can buy the airframe for a whopping 1 Million
Carries the ~same load at a faster speed and all it needs is the addition of a computer and internal nav system added to it. You may have heard of it.

Only 12,000 of the suckers have been built in the last 40 years.

The UH-1? Heard of it?

Nah, lets complicate the logistics pipeline. YEA!
Lets buy a more expensive airframe! YEA!

Oh wait, the UH-1 or its derivatives can also carry troops as well making it a dual purpose machine. Nah, we don’t want to buy one platform to do 2 jobs! No! That would be too practical!

Can you sense my sarcasm yet?


By the $1 Million I mean old airframes that could be very cheaply and easily converted to a UAV configuration. New is obviously a bit higher. Sorry forgot to add that in there

But how does its empty weight compare to the Kmax?
the K-M has essentially the same engine as the UH-1H, but the K-M has twin intermeshed rotors so doesnt need a power sapping tail rotor.
Carry same load underslung load ? I doubt it

The savings is in no flight hours are necessary for training. Thats the allure to the dod.

Doesn’t need to be underslung. Underslung is a stupid way to carry weight anyways. A unit doesn’t need 5000lbs of cargo on patrol! Underslung is utterly inefficient creating enormous drag. IE put inside and use the winch allowing multiple configurations and package sizes allowing 1 UAV Helo to supply MULTIPLE patrols. Its not like one has a single patrol out at a time!

If you are moving freight via helicopter then someone somewhere in logistics needs to have their head examined with a giant foam clue stick finger! Yes, in some situations it is the only way. It is certainly not common and if it is, it probably means the bad guys own everything between you and your patrol and the whole situation is a-s-s over teakettle. Because moving anything through the air is highly inefficient requiring vast quantities of fuel and maintenance.

A tail rotor saps very little power. If one wanted true efficiency one would have twin rotors on top of each other. Not the way it is done on the K-Max. Russians have this tech, we are just starting to research it. Yes, the twin rotors save a little bit. Not much.

Does it hurt to be so mind numbingly stupid?

And just how does a tail rotor sap power again?

You carry sling load when you are delivering supplies to some remote outpost that does not have an area for a helo to land … like on the side of a mountain. Obviously you don’t know what the requirements were for this helicopter.

If the UH-1 were so fantastic for loads AND cheaper to operate, I would see more of them here in the Pacific Northwest doing logging and fire fighting. Actually, I don’t see any. The K-Max piloted version I do see here.

That intermeshing rotor setup makes it slower BUT it makes it extremely stable in hover. It can fly higher with load, too. Essentially it is always in granny gear.

How it it’s evasive maneuvers capabilities when stubborn citizens stat popping away at it with small arms up to 12.5 and 20mm? Does it just follow the plan as it’s cool paint job is getting peeled back?

Saw the demo at Dugway Proving Ground. The K-Max was awesome!

Kmax is another research toy with no operational requirement being pushed into production to maximise contractor return.
The whole idea of marking your landing zones with beacons is just hilarious.

why would they bother we put beacons down so the lzs are clearly marked days ahead. Plenty of time to register mortars on the lz.

They’re IR and GPS beacons, not spotlights. You really think we’re shining lights in the sky for everyone to see?

Posters here should research the nature of the beacons, and the related missions, before posting.

Yeah, kind of like popping smoke for a pilot, so he can see where you want him to land is stupid…clown.

You mean like in the movies? Lol

The army dosent want it because unlike lockheed weenies who just want to make a sale, it has little operational use.

Gps beacon lol n

Little operational use? Seriously? How about keeping people out of harms way. You can land the K-Max in a hot LZ if necessary and not worry about losing the human crew.

That was rhetorical considering the audience.

Guest A… In a conventional single main rotor helicopter in hover, some of the engine power is used to generate tail rotor thrust, which does not contribute to vertical lift, but is used to counter main rotor reaction torque in the horizontal plane. In the K-Max, the counter rotating intermeshing main rotors self-cancel reaction torque in the horizontal plane, eliminating the need for a tail rotor, and a higher percentage of engine power goes to the main rotors.

And with the beacon you can be sure it’s going to be hot every time.

Trading effectiveness for safety is why we lose wars.

I hear you on the $$$ side of things, but you have to conisder the HUGE differences between a 50 year old design and the KMax. The KMax design is what you’re paying for. A huey, (or any other conventionally designed helicopter), wastes energy by utilizing a tail rotor, where the Kmax is able to utlize a greater amount of the energy produced to lift heavier loads.
As far as using a drone to carry troops, it’s an interesting idea, however, I wonder what grunts would make of it. As it is, a lot of them still don’t really like the idea of riding choppers in manned flights.

No kidding.….I read some dumba55 just posted about a “GPS Beacon” LMAO!!! Non Aviation types pretending to know anything about mil aviation kill me!!!

Its the new “GPS Satellite in a BackPack”, or GSB-P. Everyones doing it.

You do realize that most enemy combatants do not carry GPS locating equipment? If they have this capability they are most likely capable of also finding a chem light or anything else the unit in trouble is using to help the helicopter land. Also, if the helicopter is landing or taking off in a FOB, insurgents don’t need the ability to detect the GPS beacon to hit the FOB with mortarfire. I have not heard of insurgents having guided mortar rounds.
The use of the K-Max is both effective and safe

I’ll admit I don’t know the exact model the KMax team is going to use to mark their LZs, but IR strobes and handheld GPS-equipped locator beacons certainly exist. I’ve used the strobe to mark my location for aircraft and the locator beacon could be used for emergencies (though I never employed it). Both are commonly found in Afghanistan. Whatever type the KMAX will use, it certainly won’t announce to the world where the LZ is like itfunk seems to insist.

Underslung is the best way to go. Saves time. Ammo , fuel, supplies , etc a few minutes to hitch up and even less to unload , and its away to the next job.
Checking the available figures shows empty weight of UH-1H and K max about the same, same engine but one has a load 2 times the other. In the high altitudes of Afghanistan this makes all the difference.
AS well the intermeshing rotors is a more naturally stable platform and ideal for the unmanned mission

Drone carrying troops? No. Just like the K-Max a UAV huey can fly with a pilot if needed or wanted. Now you have a platform that can not only deliver cargo via UAV style, but also fly troops as well. Dual purpose. K-max can only do one thing. Deliver under slung cargo.

There’s no question that having two main rotors provide more lift than a single main rotor, but how does the engine use power to drive the tail rotor?

A better question is how much more power do engines use to drive a tail rotor vs. another main rotor on a tandem rotor setup like a CH-46/47?

Troops riding in the back of a UAV would feel the same way you would feel if you were riding in the back of a Delta Airlines 767 UAV. A PAX-carrying UAV will require a huge cultural change.

Why do that? If you want a larger aircraft with more capability, design one. Or, retrofit whatever flight control system controls the Kmax into an existing aircraft of the size that is desired.

The engine drives the transmission. The transmission drives (among other things), the tail rotor. The tail rotor generates lift, therefore drag. That drag is compensated for by the engine with engine power. Hope this helps.

Maybe an even better question is “how much does that other transmission, along with the intermixing gears weigh?” *There* is your power tradeoff between conventional and tandem rotor designs.

Umm…you guys realize that the “GPS beacons” are all in orbit…right?


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