The deployment of the Lockheed Martin/ Kaman K-MAX unmanned aerial system (UAS) to Afghanistan to act as a sort of airborne truck was a revolutionary experience for the
K-MAX deployed to Afghanistan in 2011 and
returned in 2014. During its time there, it carried cargo
and supplies between Marine Corps forward operating
bases, reducing some of the need for dangerous convoys vulnerable to attack from improvised explosive
devices. The experiment went so well that, although
that deployment ended two years ago, the Marine
Corps is looking at formalizing the program and making it a permanent capability.
The CQ-24A cargo UAS currently is in
“storage/reset phase pending follow-on requirements/
operational tasking,” Navy spokeswoman Jamie Cos-
grove said in an e-mail. “The Marine Corps is currently
working plans to move the CQ-24A system to [Marine
Corps Air Station] Yuma [in Arizona] in order to sup-
port continued tactics, techniques and procedures
development and CONOPS [concept of operations]
While in Afghanistan, K-MAX
carried numerous types of cargo,
ranging from tourniquets to gener-
ators, Cosgrove said.
“It repeatedly delivered food,
ammunition and medical supplies,
as well as served as an airborne PX
[post exchange],” she said, noting
that K-MAX delivered more than
4. 5 million pounds of cargo and
flew 1,900 sorties from December
2011 through July 2014.
“From this highly successful
deployment, we learned that unmanned cargo lift aircraft can provide flexibility in delivering cargo,
Capt. Sarah Burns, a Marine Corps spokeswoman,
said in an e-mail that the service completed a validation for a multi-utility platform for a cargo UAS
capabilities-based assessment in May 2014, and now is
in the midst of working an initial capabilities document (ICD) for a multi-utility unmanned platform that
also could support electronic warfare and intelligence,
surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR).
“In addition to this, the Marine Corps has done numerous studies and analysis on the cargo UAS capability,”
Burns said. “It was recently determined to combine this
UAS capability in the new MAGTF [Marine Air-Ground
Task Force] UAS Expeditionary Capability (MUX) ICD.”
There is no timeline for MUX proposals, but service
officials hope to have the MUX ICD approved by the
joint staff this year.
There are a number of efforts to further develop a
cargo UAS capability, Burns said, pointing to the
Autonomous Aerial Cargo Utility System (AACUS)
effort at the Office of Naval Research, and the Aerial
Reconfigurable Embedded System out of the Defense
Advanced Research Projects Agency.
K-MAX success in Afghanistan reveals potential to expand UAS capabilities
By DANIEL P. TAYLOR, Special Correspondent
The K-MAX rotary unmanned aerial system (UAS) deployed to
Afghanistan in 2011, carrying cargo and supplies between Marine
Corps forward operating bases.
; K-MAX delivered more than 4. 5 million pounds of cargo and flew
1,900 sorties during that deployment, which ended in July 2014.
; The Marine Corps is looking at the possibility of adding more
fuel for longer journeys, along with day-night sensors and data
links, and a weapons employment capability.
; A big element is how to interface with local air traffic control
due to all of the manned aircraft flying in the same airspace.