Congress to Army: Get Your Own Cargo Drone

Congress has ordered the Army to reconsider its initial refusal to stand up a cargo drone program despite the success the Marine Corps has had flying Lockheed Martin’s K-MAX unmanned cargo helicopter in Afghanistan.

The House Armed Services Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee commended the Marine Corps for the performance of the K-MAX cargo helicopters that have flown missions in Afghanistan since November 2011.

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

Despite the perceived success of the program and the similar need facing the Army, Army leaders have consistently said they have no plans to start their own cargo UAS program and have only observed the Marine Corps’ program from afar. Subcommittee members can’t understand why.

“The committee is concerned that the Army, despite having very similar logistical challenges, does not have a cargo UAS program. Therefore, the committee directs the Secretary of the Army to submit a report to the congressional defense committees, by February 15, 2014, assessing the potential utility of an Army cargo UAS,” the subcommittee wrote into their mark of the 2014 defense budget.

Lawmakers want the Army to estimate the cost to buy, operate and sustain a cargo UAS program similar to Lockheed Martin’s K-MAX. The subcommittee also wants details on how a cargo UAS program would fit into the Army’s larger logistical structure.

Marine Corps leaders have said the unmanned K-MAX has allowed ground commanders to order more supply missions to distant combat outposts in Afghanistan when poor weather or fire fighters would have restricted manned helicopter missions.

The Corps initially sent the K-MAX to Afghanistan as a test program. However, in April, Corps leaders indefinitely extended its stay in the combat zone.

After the K-MAX’s first deployment to Afghanistan, Naval and Marine Corps aviation leaders heaped praise upon the program. NAVAIR Commander Vice Adm. David Architzel  highlighted how the K-MAX kept other convoys off the road and away from improvised explosive devices.

“This is a great example of integration while fulfilling the ‘urgent needs’ of the warfighter,” Architzel said at a post-deployment debrief July 10, 2012. “Every time you can eliminate even a portion of a convoy, you eliminate the possibility of someone losing their life from an [improvised explosive device] on the roads.”

21 Comments on "Congress to Army: Get Your Own Cargo Drone"

  1. I wonder if we can get the Congress to order the Army to get it's own cargo plane. Maybe just a small one that could haul stuff around Afghanistan. Maybe we could call it the Spartan………..wait………..

  2. Why doesn't Congress order the Marine Corps to stand up its own medical corps instead of tasking the Navy and Army with supporting them in the war zone.

    Army medic's and medivac helo's have had to leave deployed Army units in Afghanistan to sustain the Marines in their Helmand provience AO for 8 years now. Do the Marines pay the Army for this service?

  3. USS ENTERPRISE | May 23, 2013 at 9:04 pm |

    Maybe congress can take the money from buying those extra Abrams, and send it over to buying the K-Max. The K-Max works, its ugly, and what more do you want?

  4. Have congress kill GCV crap then the army will have the money for a K-MAX. Face it the dod is broke and we can do with what we have for a while.

  5. Arent you all part of the same countrys armed forces or did I miss something?

  6. If the Army won't consider a drone program, perhaps its because they're trying to protect rotary aviation from dronification? They're looking at the writing on the wall: more drone pilots than aircraft pilots in the USAF.

    To be practical, the Army should try teleoperated Blackhawks first, which would simplify logistics considerably. The Marine KMAX venture is very small, which is why they can get away with buying nothing but paying Lockheed to "demonstrate". The Army knows that once it steps in, the money gets serious, and everyone on HASC/SASC suddenly has an Informed Opinion.

  7. I don't think Congress realize how big this program have to be to support the Army supply needs…they don't realize much but still. What happens when your load start to spin? will the drown automatically cut the load? I doubt it. It work for the Marines because the Marines is a heck of lot smaller than the Army, so therefore they don't require as much supply, nor do their supplies get delivered for as great a distances as the Army do. In stead of telling the Army what they "SHOULD" do, which is the SECDEF's job by the way…just supply the funds when the Army do what they have to do.

  8. chaos0xomega | May 24, 2013 at 11:13 am |

    Personally, I think the Army is smart to avoid jumping on the drone bandwagon that the other services are getting on. Everyone has this massive hard-on for drones, ignoring the "writing on the wall" that they can be disrupted (very easily) via cyber attacks and ewar systems. When the Marines are suddenly shit up a creek without a paddle because some pimple-faced teenager in China decides that he wants to see how well drone supply helo's can do barrel rolls, the Army at least will still be able to achieve its operational goals knowing that its supply train is more hardened against such things (though still somewhat vulnerable due to dependence on gps and communications).

  9. I would have like a toy like that., awsome..

  10. What the story doesn't tell you is that contractors are still flying or supervising marines operating the system (has been going on for years). Doesn't want to have to deploy a bunch of contractors in the early phases of the next deployment.

    It is not mature. Army is waiting for the system to be proven or the bugs worked out. The Corps does it all the time when it lets another service prove a system before it's adopted. What district is the KMAX in?

  11. Ken Badoian | May 24, 2013 at 2:41 pm |

    To Carl…The United States Marines have been part of the Navy Department Since they are a sea going service, and from day one, the Navy has provided Doctors, Hospital Corpsmen, and even Chapilans. Enough said…DA, get a life and be all you can be, an army of???

  12. Congress is also making demands on the Navy for better, more accurate and timely reporting. Congress just does not trust the DoD at this point, and who can blame them? They've been misled and outright lied to repeatedly by the DoD and I'm pleased that they're finally doing a tighter job of oversight. Of course, this can swing to a micro-managing extreme, but right now this scrutiny is needed. And, hopefully, accountability will go along with it.

  13. bring back the huey hahaha

  14. they make it so complicated the huey use to perform all those tasks in the 1960s.

  15. Why doesn't the Army leaders want to have a drone system such as the Marines have now; easy answer "we did not think of it first, so therefore we will not be doing it". Heavens, we would not want to NOT have service rivalry would we? The VERY SIMPLE way to save hundreds of millions of dollars would be to ELIMINATE ALL duplicated services, schools, equipment, uniforms, training, that EACH Branch just has to have. ALL this is predicated by the sole fact that each Branch wants to show the others how big their B***s are compared to everyone else. Add this fact "Its not our money, so why should we care how much we spend for all the nonsense we purchase WITHOUT proper and complete FIELD TESTING BEFORE PURCHASING" and soon we will be talking big money.

  16. The marine drone is operationally useless. This is just another example of rotten marine ideas infecting the rest of the defense forces for corrupt reasons. As long as the marines exist they will continue to drag down the rest of the forces.

  17. PolicyWonk | May 25, 2013 at 11:24 am |

    If the Army is going to adopt a cargo drone – they should just take on the same one the USMC is using once they work out all the bugs, etc.

  18. True, But!…, you don't mention nor discuss reduction of risk. The risk of losing lives, not the risk of completing the mission, as described within the last paragraph..,

    “This is a great example of integration while fulfilling the ‘urgent needs’ of the warfighter,” Architzel said at a post-deployment debrief July 10, 2012. “Every time you can eliminate even a portion of a convoy, you eliminate the possibility of someone losing their life from an [improvised explosive device] on the roads.”

    Tools are expensive, and can be replaced. Your service buddies can't be, and that is perhaps the driving force behind drones…, save lives! It is the one thing that separates the Marines…, they put each Marine's life as being more important then the Almighty $. Don't come back at me with vstol histrionics. We all know there are inherent risks during development of any item. I think the taxpayers and Vietnam, hell any fire-fight Veteran, like Hagel, prefer putting more replaceable metal up front then soft, vulnerable, living flesh…, Your buddies…, on the WALL.

    Surviving Heros take all forms. There are Flesh and Bone kind, and the venerable and proven weapons of yesterday and today. It flies, crawls, it gushes flame, it sailed and nearly sank and kept its crews alive. It fired, the barrel red/white hot, until the enemy retreated or it ran out of ammo. It fired submerged in mud and water, dust and blowing sand. It saw the enemy at night and alerted for destruction. It replaced our 5 senses or raised them above the battle surface so we could detect what was happening around us in the vast environment. It revolves around the earth and sees and listens and communicates information and orders. Every Service member owes their lives to these un-sung Heros made out of metal, wires, cameras, batteries and solar cells. We should encourage their evolution if it means more of your buddies and you get to come home in one piece.., with less disabling trauma. Bless body Armor…., wish we had something like it in Nam, not just flack jackets.

    Read more:

  19. retired462 | May 25, 2013 at 11:35 am |

    Sounds like another case of buy it – no matter the cost, 'cause they'll be built in one of the congressmens congressional district. Let DOD decide where their spending priorities lie.

  20. K-Max is great projekt, as I see it. Doesn't the K-Max open up more flexible, more agile, less dependend actions?

  21. Why reinvent the wheel? Use the same one the Marines are using. Save on parts, expertise and development. The interservice rivalry is as ridiculous as the House senate debocle.

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