October 21st, 2010
10:03 AM ET

U.S. military to experiment with unmanned helicopters

The U.S. military is hoping to use remote-controlled helicopters like these, shown in January 2010, for supply delivery.

Faced with increasing casualties from roadside bombs in Afghanistan, the U.S. military will experiment with remote-controlled, unmanned helicopters to deliver supplies to remote outposts, the U.S. Navy said.

The U.S. Navy is seeking a contractor to operate the program, planned for the last quarter of 2011, Eric Pratson, leader of the U.S. Navy team behind the project, told CNN.

“This is a rapid deployment effort being led by the Navy in response to an urgent needs requirement for a Cargo UAS (unmanned aircraft systems) capability in support of Marine Corps forces engaged in Operation Enduring Freedom,” Pratson told Stars and Stripes, which first reported the plan.

Lockheed-Martin and Kaman Aerospace say their K-MAX unmanned helicopter system can do the job. They tested it at the Army’s Dugway Proving Ground earlier this year and it met or exceeded requirements, according to a Lockheed-Martin statement.

Video: Watch K-MAX test

“It keeps our Marines readily resupplied and out of harm’s way,” Dan Spoor, Lockheed Martin Aviation Systems vice president, said in a statement.

The company says the K-MAX can operate day or night, deliver up to 3,450 pounds of supplies to up to four locations per trip and hover at 12,000 feet.

Boeing's A160T.

Boeing is also vying for the contract with its A160T Hummingbird unmanned copter, the company said Wednesday. It said the A160T passed a Marine Corps test in March, successfully delivering 2,500 pounds of supplies during a simulated mission.

“This capability will save lives by getting troops and trucks off of roads where they are highly vulnerable to IED attacks,” Vic Sweberg, director, Boeing Unmanned Airborne Systems, said in a statement.

Boeing’s website says the A160T can stay aloft for 24 hours and operate as high as 30,000 feet, 10,000 feet higher than conventional copters. It has a payload of 2,500 pounds, Boeing says.

The program is still open to other bidders, Pratson told CNN in an e-mail.

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Filed under: Afghanistan • Military
soundoff (226 Responses)
  1. PGelsman

    The manned helicopters are doing such a good job??? Every day you read about another one shot down or just crashing.
    They are so bad that the US is giving Russian built helicopters to the Afghans.
    Our tax dollars at work.

    October 24, 2010 at 2:08 am | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Paul

    THIS IS ROB64. SENDING SUPPLIES.

    October 24, 2010 at 4:23 am | Report abuse | Reply
  3. cc

    Yea like thats going to work just use a jammer and watch them fall on all are people below
    lol good thinking

    October 24, 2010 at 8:16 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • radardude

      Yeah, like you can jam an ICBM. Ever heard of inertial guidance, or stellar navigation? UAV have been flying successfully for decades. Pretty soon, you'll see them out your windows.

      October 24, 2010 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse |
  4. ExNavyguy

    This unmanned plane are being used for supplies, what part of that is not clear, it has nothing really to do with man power. You are bringing the supplies to the thousands of troops on the ground, so how is that helping besides still getting the supplies to them. We did a excellent job at that with our H-60 with a crew of four. Were loosing thousands on the ground, how many you heard about really loosing from the air. If anything they should be making unmanned machines for the ground troops, maybe an unmanned hummer or something..as for the V-22 , I was there for the first flight test, and the first test landing on a ship, it had alot of kinks to work out, and yeah know they are the bomb, but look at how much time and money, now they want to put an unmanned plane into the playing field, hmmm the military is going south, now letting gays join, wow, then the whole women on subs, to this...

    October 24, 2010 at 9:25 am | Report abuse | Reply
  5. DrunkenDuck

    Or we could simply leave Afganistan. Anyone thought of that?

    October 24, 2010 at 11:19 am | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Winky

    Oh fer fun, kinda reminds me of my Whirlybird I had as a kid. Sad though, the U.S. is going down, and Iraq and Afganistan are already lost. How do the Chinese put it? "He person who seeks revenge should dig two graves"?...Boys have fun while you can... This insatiable military industrial complex is gonna crash and the toy budget is goin bye bye.

    October 24, 2010 at 11:25 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • manny

      and then, comes the dark ages.

      October 24, 2010 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
  7. FRank

    I suggest Atlas-McDowell

    October 24, 2010 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  8. LCDR Raisner (USN Helo Pilot)

    On paper this sounds great. The US can safely deliver much need supplies to the front without endangering more American lives, oh and the most important thing that we all care about is that will cost less. As a helo guy I am not too worried about loosing my job to a glorified remote control helo. However, as a "lifer" as they say, I am concerned about all the focus and drive we (Americans) have on the bottom line in today'smilitary. We all need to be resourceful, but the military is not in business to make a profit. We won the Cold War by spending more than the enemy. We are all tax payers, yes for those of you that do not know this, the men and women in the military pay taxes too. Can supplies be delivered with an unmaned aircraft? Yes. It is my opinion that once a contract is signed, we will get a product that will cost three times as much and it will only deliver a third of what we wanted it to. I guess that means this helo will only deliver about 1000 lbs and fly for about 8 hours. Thanks for reading.

    October 24, 2010 at 10:06 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  9. keith

    Uhm the US Navy already uses unmanned helos – its called a RQ-8 FireScout and has been operating from US ships for quite a number of years. This is nothing new

    http://www.naval-technology.com/projects/firescout/

    October 25, 2010 at 8:48 am | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Kit Reed

    The only potentional enemy if we go to war with them is Israel. There technology is so much better then the US. Forget about shooting a missle at them, they will shoot it out of the air before it crosses a boarder with eaither the Iron Dome or the Iron Spear. That is the reason why we need to technology. I personally would foght for the IDF if we go to war with Israel.

    October 27, 2010 at 12:22 am | Report abuse | Reply
  11. DC

    Why doesn't the Navy look to an already proven Fire Scout?

    October 27, 2010 at 11:49 am | Report abuse | Reply
  12. flying model airplanes

    You really make it appear so easy together with your presentation but I to find this matter to be really one thing which I think I might never understand. It sort of feels too complicated and extremely broad for me. I'm having a look ahead for your subsequent put up, I'll attempt to get the dangle of it!

    August 31, 2012 at 11:41 am | Report abuse | Reply
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