K-MAX Unmanned Cargo Lifting Helo Makes Early Inroads
With its 5,145 lb empty weight (2.3 metric tons), the K-MAX UAS cannot quite convey the same sense of graceful lightness as its Hummingbird Boeing competitor, coming at slightly less than half the weight.
Belonging to a different weight class shifts the Lockheed Martin/Kaman helo to a different mission focus, with a clear emphasis on battlefield cargo resupply. K-MAX has a useful load of 6,855 lb (3.1 tons) vs. 2,500 pounds for the Hummingbird. Up to 6,000 lb (at sea level) can be attached to the cargo hook which is attached to a curved trolley system. Payload at 10,000 ft is still rated above 5,000 lb.
VTUAV Competitors: Quick Specs
|Empty weight (lb)||5,145||2,500|
|Max useful load (lb)||6,855||2,500|
|Max airspeed (kph)||185||305|
|Max. range (km)||1,850||4,150|
|Max. loaded range (km)||396||?|
|Source: vendor specs. Some numbers rounded down.|
Contracts & Key Events
The first K-MAX UAS sale was a $47M contract in 2010 for 2 units picked by the USMC to run tests in parallel with the Hummingbird. Since then the UAS has successfully completed its Electromagnetic Environmental Effects (E3) tests at Pax River in July 2011. Quick Reaction Assessment (QRA) at Yuma Proving Ground, AZ – where K-MAX was already tested at the end of 2009 – was likewise successfully completed by early September 2011.
The 2nd win came on July 16/11: The US Army Contracting Command, Fort Eustis, VA, awarded Lockheed Martin a $47M contract to develop, demonstrate and deliver autonomous technologies for unmanned air systems in support of in-theater unmanned cargo resupply missions.
Work will be performed in Owego, N.Y., with an estimated completion date of June 29, 2016. One bid was solicited, with one bid received. (W911W6-11-D-0008).
FY12 and Beyond: Possible Joint Navy/Army Effort; $1 billion Competition
In June 2011 AviationWeek reported that the US Army and Navy are considering merging their VTOL UAV programs. An Navy-led RFI released on June 27 intends to support both the Army development of the MRMP acquisition strategy and to inform the collaborative Army and Navy Medium Range Maritime UAS (MRMUAS) Analysis of Alternatives (AoA). Of note among PM UAS’ requirements: compatibility with U.S Army Universal Ground Control Station (UGCS). The RFI was due on August 10. Tim Owings, deputy program manager for Army UAVs, told Bloomberg that 8 companies responded. The program is set to involve a $1B budget for 100+ unmanned helicopters.
In an earlier statement, Owings said the Army was proposing an acquisition strategy that in effect is similar to the one currently at play under the NAVAIR order for the Marines: a fast evaluation process involving 2 platforms in FY12, deployment of these platforms in FY13, ultimately followed by a program of record down-selecting on 1 platform by FY14.
- Kaman – K-MAX. This is the manned helicopter, with an interesting twin scissor-rotor concept. It looks like a 4-blade rotor, but is really a pair of 2-blade rotors whose arcs mesh.
- Lockheed Martin – K-MAX Unmanned Helicopter. Lockheed Martin is the lead contractor for the VTUAV version.
- Kaman – K-MAX Unmanned.