Home » Air » Marines Indefinitely Extend K-MAX’s Afghanistan Mission

Marines Indefinitely Extend K-MAX’s Afghanistan Mission

by Kris Osborn on May 1, 2013

Unmanned helicopter makes first delivery for Marines in AfghanistanThe U.S. Marine Corps has indefinitely extended service for its autonomous K-MAX aircraft, an unmanned cargo helicopter that can fly with or without a pilot and deliver up to 6,000-pounds of supplies to forward-positioned soldiers and Marines in Afghanistan, service officials said.

Two K-MAX helicopters have been in Afghanistan hauling cargo since November 2011 in response to a request from ground commanders.

There is no formal requirement as of yet, and no official decision has been made regarding its future and the potential for it to become a program of record.

“This is fielded as a military utility assessment that has operational value in theater. So what we do is on every flight we bring data back and put together reports to Marine Corps leadership,” said Eric Pratson, team lead for the cargo UAS program.

The K-MAX has transported a range of supplies from mine-roller equipment to generators to ammunition to medical supplies and even mail, said Navy Capt. Patrick Smith, program manager for the Multi-Mission Tactical Unmanned Air Systems.

So for the record haul for the K-MAX was 30,000 pounds over six mission for one day, officials said.

Marine officials explained the importance of having an unmanned aircraft to deliver supplies in the midst of a firefight. Often times, a commander will have to determine if he can send a manned aircraft to send supplies to a unit taking direct fire. Sending a drone makes the decision easier.

“We received a last minute call to go fly a palate of 60-mm mortar rounds of ammunition into an LZ that had been receiving direct and indirect fire for the previous couple days and they were down to less than 24-hour supply of ammunition,” explained Marine Corps Maj. Daniel E. Lindblom, operations officer for Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 3. “The support unit was so happy that they ordered another re-supply of 40mm ammo the next night. We executed the mission with short notice both times.”

The K-MAX operates by flying to GPS waypoints that Marines and Lockheed Martin contractors enter into the computer as part of a flight plan, Pratson said.

“We also have a line-of-sight and beyond-line-of-sight data link which gives us the ability to change direction in flight. We call it dynamic re-tasking, so if there is a situation where we have to go a different way into an LZ or come home a different way, we can dynamically re-task the air vehicle,” he explained.

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{ 48 comments… read them below or add one }

USS ENTERPRISE May 1, 2013 at 3:04 pm

Rather ungainly look. I wonder if they plan on possible fitting a drone technology to this. It would be interesting.


DigTw0Grav3s May 1, 2013 at 3:27 pm
Hoopla May 1, 2013 at 4:38 pm

Missed it. Thanks.


USS ENTERPRISE May 1, 2013 at 4:55 pm

As did I. Thanks, uh, DifTw0Grav3s


Guest May 2, 2013 at 11:09 am

"DigTwoGravres" is a Chinese warning for someone about to seek revenge.

USS ENTERPRISE May 1, 2013 at 4:57 pm

I forgot to add at the end /sarc. Still, a down voting massacre is expected.


SJE May 1, 2013 at 3:31 pm

Who cares if its ugly if it gets the job done.


Haploo May 1, 2013 at 4:42 pm

A-10. Good point.


USS ENTERPRISE May 1, 2013 at 4:48 pm

Beat me to it. Dang.


gunslinger6 May 2, 2013 at 12:19 pm

Am I the only one that doesnt think the A-10 is ugly?


USS ENTERPRISE May 3, 2013 at 5:07 pm

Well, from certain angles, it looks good. Especially when you're on the ground and you see its planform. Not because it looks good, but because you know you're saved.


Joshua May 5, 2013 at 11:31 pm

No, personally I think the A-10 is one of the sexiest airframes in the military and when actually seen one in flight it is amazingly graceful. Almost like poetry in motion to watch one work.


Guest May 2, 2013 at 11:12 am

["Who cares if its ugly if it gets the job done"]

That's right. If it's ugly but it works, it ain't ugly. Even the A-10 Warthog and the EA-6B Intruder are……pretty.


Torga May 1, 2013 at 4:49 pm

It's still designed on the "normal" base design. I'd love to see it designed more utilitarian in the future. Consider this the BETA model so for now I could care less about the looks as long as it works. I hope they use the data gained from these runs to bring about a new generation of drop machines.


Sev May 1, 2013 at 8:00 pm

NIce to see a procurement program that actually delivers results and isn't grossly over budget.


USS ENTERPRISE May 1, 2013 at 8:05 pm

They have been few and far between, haven't they……


Tinto May 2, 2013 at 7:34 am

Kaman Aircraft developed the system on private money, for comerical use. I'll take bets that Lockheed is over budget on the administration of the program with the Marines.


Mark May 7, 2013 at 11:48 am

I believe the A-10 was on budget and on time too.


USS ENTERPRISE May 8, 2013 at 8:35 pm

While I agree, people with shoot you down saying that is was old. The procurement for the A-10, heck even the "newer" F-15 were on time and on budget. But they were in the 60's and 70's.


M. Bouffant May 2, 2013 at 1:01 am

Pallet, not "palate."


Restore Palestine May 2, 2013 at 1:25 am

This Hellicopter is butt ugly … uglier than Dick Cheney and Dung Rumsfeld.

Somebody please photoshop the loser (lipsticks, pantyhose, high heels, … whatever) and repost.


USS ENTERPRISE May 2, 2013 at 8:18 am

Better than what Palestine got. Which is nothing.


UAVGeek May 3, 2013 at 1:48 am

Please, the both of you stop commenting, You're both jokes. All of your "knowledge" is wrong, and your political viewpoints are just as lame. Leave the conversation to the adults please.


USS ENTERPRISE May 3, 2013 at 6:36 pm

Apollo 11 landed on the moon. Is that "knowledge" wrong?


maple May 6, 2013 at 12:27 pm

First off, "Apollo 11" is a mission code name, not a concrete, tangible vehicle. You may use the term "Apollo 11 rocket" but even then it's not strictly correct to say the rocket landed on the moon because rocket was comprised of the launch vehicle (Saturn V SA-506), a command module, a service module, and the Lunar module. Only the Lunar module was designed to land on the Moon. So your "knowledge" is technically wrong.

Secondly, the manned Lunar landing remains a claim with dubious proofs. Many videos and photos released by NASA have been shown to be contradictory. Blue prints for the Saturn V rocket cannot be found. The accidents and test failures shortly before the "real landing mission" were serious and numerous. So there are good reasons to be unpersuaded that NASA had all of a sudden pulled off a perfect miracle. So your "knowledge" is wrong, as you do not have complete knowledge about the mission. You are merely repeating NASA's claim.

Guest May 2, 2013 at 11:14 am

They could nickname it Janet Reno…….


Rest Pal May 3, 2013 at 12:54 am

Or Hilary Clinton. And what's the name of Cheney's wife?


greg May 3, 2013 at 3:46 pm

Who the heck cares what it lookslike dude!


wpnexp May 8, 2013 at 6:14 am

Seems Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary Of Defense Donald Rumsfeld hands Islamic terrorists and Saddam Hussein their ass. And you certainly are a sore loser. Or more like, just a plain loser. And since those two men are fairly responsible for te K-MAX and it is still helping to kill bad guys, you really seem like the one in lipstick, panty hose and heels here.


Uncle Bill May 2, 2013 at 1:36 am

It's cool looking! Are you f_ucking kidding me? I'd run for my life if I saw that thing coming, even without a weapon on it.


USS ENTERPRISE May 2, 2013 at 4:44 pm

Fear factor has been something that I think has been part of each and every aircraft designed. Everything from a Stuka to an A-10 to an F-15 have had at least "pizzazz" thrown in.


TJRedneck May 2, 2013 at 6:40 am

I don't care how they look, for that matter they don't look that ugly to me. Bottom line is that they are effective and save lives. We could have definitely used those when I was in Lebannon back in 83 and I can imagine all the lives something like that would have saved in Vietnam. It appears that the Marines in Afghanistan do like them and that they are working well, that's what counts.


USMCJSY May 2, 2013 at 8:19 am

Marines dont care if its ugly looking. Or odd, its all about adapting and overcoming obstacles. Semper Fi my fellow Jarheads!


gunslinger6 May 2, 2013 at 12:21 pm

Well put!


SJE May 2, 2013 at 1:57 pm

Yep: it was a SEAL team that killed Osama, not some supermodels


aaothead May 2, 2013 at 2:43 pm

It works. Good enough for me.


Zach May 2, 2013 at 3:02 pm

Looks like a pair of eggbeater whisks stabbed into a dolphin.

I fucking love it. Combat resupply's future looks pretty decent. It does need a little protection or armor, though. Wonder if it could handle MANPADS.


Guest May 2, 2013 at 5:12 pm



Thomas Hunter May 2, 2013 at 10:45 pm

these helo's were forced into State Dept use several years ago and were the most useless piece of equipment we had in Plan Colombia. glad to see them getting put to use in Afghanistan, because their range was insufficient, too noisy, too slow and hard to get parts for in Colombia.


MrMorse May 3, 2013 at 9:18 am

A system which works. Was developed – with little or no taxpayer dollars- from an existing, proven and operational platform. Commanders on the ground in a combat zone are requesting more while it reduces risk and expands operational capabilities. How many have been purchased? 2. The US military needs to use what works and get over the "high-tech for the sake of high-tech" which will soon leave us with nothing but over-priced under-capable crap. Effectiveness has nothing to do with beauty.


Moe Sizlack May 3, 2013 at 9:20 am
oblatt1 May 3, 2013 at 9:40 am

>Two K-MAX helicopters have been in Afghanistan hauling cargo since November 2011 in response to a request from ground commanders.

In other words some field commanders were paid off to ask for an insignificant number of pure PR machines to aid in the contractors marketing.

>I wonder if they plan on possible fitting a drone technology to this.

LOL is there anything this guy does know ?


scott May 8, 2013 at 1:54 pm

what the hell is that thing? is it a helicopter or a plane


blight_ May 8, 2013 at 8:28 pm

Are the intermeshed rotors confusing?


USS ENTERPRISE May 8, 2013 at 8:32 pm

How did you get a plane out of that picture???


Rest Pal May 9, 2013 at 12:09 am

It's a HELLicopter, something designed to fail more easily than traditional helicopters, which are already quite deadly.


GySgt. Perry May 9, 2013 at 1:07 am

This platform is awesome. I was there and ordered the slings for the haul. Great platform, don't have to put up with pilots getting pissed off because they have to do their jobs, just totally great. Hope for further success.


Guest May 2, 2013 at 11:17 am

Well, I'll bet when you're down to your final mag and the last of your water, that thing looks like Joey Heatherton as it approaches your poz.


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