K-Max deployment extended again
Lockheed Martin has announced that the US Marine Corps (USMC) has approved the deployment extension of the K-MAX Cargo UAS for the second time this year, which will see the aircraft remain in theatre an extra six months past the planned withdrawal in September 2012. The announcement was made 31 July 2012.
Developed by Lockheed Martin and Kaman Aerospace, K-MAX is the first unmanned helicopter to deliver cargo and resupply troops in a combat zone. By supplying forward operating bases with K-MAX instead of ground convoy or manned aircraft, the USMC has ‘reduced the threat posed to personnel by improvised explosive devices by thousands of hours’.
In May this year, the USMC requested the stay in theatre through September, and this latest announcement extends K-MAX service in Afghanistan for an additional six months and includes an option to extend its time through September 2013.
The K-MAX programme was developed to satisfy a Joint Urgent Operational Need Statement generated by the USMC in 2010, has flown 485 sorties, 525 hours and lifted more than 1.6 million pounds of cargo since it arrived in theatre in November 2011. In May, the aircraft performed its first ‘hot hook-up,’ enabling personnel to attach cargo to the unmanned aircraft while in hover mode. That capability is now used regularly to perform retrograde missions, when cargo is carried on the return flight as well, increasing the efficiency of the K-MAX.
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