As of the end of January, the K-MAX unmanned helicopter had delivered over 100,000 lb. of cargo on more than 50 resupply missions in Afghanistan, according to numbers provided by Lockheed Martin, which produces the K-MAX along with Kaman Aerospace.

The U.S. Marine Corps flew its first-ever unmanned cargo resupply mission in Afghanistan on Dec. 17, sending the K-MAX on a mission to supply Marines stationed at a small combat outpost with 3,500 lb. of food and equipment.

On its maiden flight, the K-MAX was dispatched from Camp Dwyer to deliver supplies to Marines at Combat Outpost Payne in Helmand province. One subsequent resupply mission saw the bird haul a 4,200-lb. generator in a single load, Lockheed’s Jeff Brown says. During pre-deployment testing, the K-MAX was able to exceed the Navy and Marine Corps’ requirement to deliver 6,000 lb. of cargo per day over a five-day period, lugging a total of 33,400 lb. and topping out at about 3,500 lb. delivered in a single mission, the Marines have said. Plus, with its four-hook carousel, K-MAX can also supply multiple locations in one flight.

The Marines say they will continue to collect data on the K-MAX’s performance over the next six months. Once they analyze how effectively the aircraft performed, they will decide whether to make it a program of record.

The Army also is keeping a close eye on the program. In August, the service awarded the Lockheed/Kaman team $47 million to continue work on the K-MAX program — testing was done this past fall at Fort Benning — while wrapping up a larger study on a full range of unmanned cargo options. The tests will help the service build a formal program of record for an unmanned vertical-takeoff-and-landing (VTOL) capability, a program that Textron/AAI is very interested in.

Steve Reid, AAI’s senior vice president and general manager for unmanned systems, says the company has signed a license agreement with Carter Aviation for a manned, four-person helicopter that Textron is working on turning into an unmanned platform. The company feels that the system “would do the cargo mission that’s being talked about” quite nicely, according to Reid.