Marines Indefinitely Extend K-MAX’s Afghanistan Mission

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.

About the Author

Kris Osborn
Kris Osborn is the managing editor of Scout Warrior.

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

  • SJE

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

  • Torga

    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

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


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

    • Tinto

      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.

  • Pallet, not “palate.”

  • Restore Palestine

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

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

  • Uncle Bill

    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.


      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

    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.


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

  • aaothead

    It works. Good enough for me.

  • Zach

    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


  • Thomas Hunter

    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

    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
  • oblatt1

    >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

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

  • GySgt. Perry

    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.