Marine Corps evaluates cargo-carrying unmanned aerial systems to avoid IEDs
By RICHARD R. BURGESS, Managing Editor
Handling the All-Phenomenal
mand outposts or forward operat-
After the Marine Corps War-
fighting Lab in Quantico, Va.,
expressed interest in a demonstra-
tion of unmanned vertical lift capa-
bility, the Navy issued a request for
proposals and selected two for
demonstration early last year. The
K-Max and A160T were selected
and demonstrated in January and
March 2010, respectively, at Dug-
way Proving Ground, Utah.
“After we proved essentially the
art of the possible — technically
that you can do this — we were
tasked via the JUONS to develop a system on contract
that can do it in Afghanistan,” Pratson said.
Both Boeing and Lockheed Martin responded to the
Navy’s August request for a further demonstration, and
will participate in the assessment this summer.
“The test directorates for naval aviation will assess
the suitability and effectiveness [of the UASs],”
Pratson said. “Essentially, can they do what they say
they can do over a period of seven to 10 days?”
The site of the assessment has not yet been deter-
mined, but the Navy is looking at a western test range
with a density altitude and austere environment that
would mimic Afghanistan.
Each contractor will provide two unmanned rotorcraft, a ground control station (GCS) for a main operating base (MOB) and three GCSs for forward operating bases (FOBs). The rotorcraft and FOB GCSs will be
Navy owned, but the MOB GCS will be contractor
owned, with it and other services being provided
under a services agreement.
The UASs will be operated and maintained by contractor teams, but the Marine Corps will have teams to
give the order to drop or land the cargo loads at the
FOBs. The overall mission commander will be a Marine.
The Marine Corps will deploy a cargo unmanned aerial system
(UAS) to Afghanistan this year following an evaluation of two very
■ Lockheed Martin’s Kaman K-Max and Boeing’s A160T will
compete this summer for the deployment.
■ The goal: deliver cargo to forward operating bases and reduce
reliance on convoys vulnerable to improvised explosive devices.
■ Evaluation results will inform the Corps’ way forward for a
The Marine Corps will be fielding an unmanned aerial system (UAS) in Afghanistan late this year for a six-month demonstration of its
cargo-carrying capabilities. One of two UASs taking part
in a Quick Reaction Assessment this summer —
Lockheed Martin’s unmanned version of the Kaman-built K-Max helicopter and Boeing’s upgraded version of
its A160T Hummingbird — will be chosen for the
deployment. After the deployment, the Corps will assess
the road ahead for its cargo UAS requirement.
The Marine Corps established a requirement for a
cargo UAS in October 2009 as a Joint Urgent Operational
Needs Statement (JUONS), later validated by the Joint
Rapid Reaction Cell in January 2010. A JUONS initiates
a formal process that allows streamlined acquisition to
meet the requirement.
“The purpose of the cargo UAS is to limit the exposure of warfighters to [improvised explosive devices]
IEDs both in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Eric Pratson,
the Navy’s integrated program team lead for the cargo
UAS. “It’s very, very rugged in Afghanistan and [the
Marines] want to take an unmanned system that essentially limits the exposure to the IEDs and/or hostile fire
and still be able to maintain a level of resupply to com-