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. turk18

    Nice target, unless it can dodge RPG's.

    October 22, 2010 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sharp

      RPGs are way limited in range & inaccurate against aerial targets. Stingers would work but very expensive & almost never available. Pretty easy threats to counter as opposed to miles & miles of roads.

      October 23, 2010 at 9:01 am | Report abuse |
  2. bob

    ha i can imagine the taliban shooting down one of those helos being all happy thinking they killed americans only to find out it was a giant remote controlled heli

    October 22, 2010 at 2:16 pm | Report abuse |
  3. bob

    and RPGS can very very unaccurate

    October 22, 2010 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse |
  4. jackall

    Just give Pakistan Army 52 billion dollars and let them do the job, you are all worthless, nato is rubbish, canadians are pathetic soldiers, only one army Pak. army can do the job right.
    Stop cheating the american public and pull your red necks out, and let Pak army finish the job.

    October 22, 2010 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sharp

      Parts of the Pakistan Army are allied with the Taliban. They would only use the money to strengthen their position against their most important enemy, India.

      October 23, 2010 at 9:13 am | Report abuse |
  5. Jackel

    WOW People! I can't believe some of the uneducated comments ....

    October 22, 2010 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Kuske

    We're quietly moving our entire military to unmanned vehicles. In today's electronics age, tanks, planes, copters, boats, are all way too vulnerable. China claims to have an unstoppable missile which will destroy our aircraft carriers. I'd take that very seriously.

    October 22, 2010 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sharp

      If you want to talk unstoppable missiles lets talk about the Moon. A missile fired straight down at the Earth aided by gravity would come in way to fast for even a laser to take out. The old time sci fi authors long ago pointed this out & named the Moon as the natural ruler of the Earth in the far future.

      October 23, 2010 at 8:40 am | Report abuse |
  7. Mac

    Here is an idea, get hell out of the God forsaken country and protect our borders. If others want war, we nuke the hell out them and the camels they ride on.

    October 22, 2010 at 6:28 pm | Report abuse |
  8. I-support-It

    A waste of money? Use a $30, 000 truck instead of a "million dollar" aircraft?
    Where do you people come up with your comments? Damn Luddites.
    I'd rather spend MORE money to PREVENT loss of life instead of doing it the "tried and true" way, i.e., BLOOD and GUTS (sorry Gen. Patton).

    October 22, 2010 at 6:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • bilge

      Quit invading other nations under false premises and you'll save lives and money.

      October 22, 2010 at 11:56 pm | Report abuse |
  9. TexasKoz

    Army has been working remote helicopters for years for missile practice. The tech has been there. It's about time we use it.

    October 23, 2010 at 12:25 am | Report abuse |
  10. Sharp

    Out hardware them. It's the American way. Valor means nothing against superior firepower & technology. Provided of course that your troops have valor too. The Polish Calvary had tons of valor when they charged the German Panzers but they all died. Should have headed for the hills & prepared for guerrilla war. Too much valor CAN be a bad thing.

    October 23, 2010 at 8:34 am | Report abuse |
  11. ahhfunny

    I agree this should be fun to watch, Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey, look how long it took them to finally get it rite after trying and trying crashing and crashing,,yeah its keeping our troops safe, but putting our nation in more debt..your still going to have thousands of troops on the ground, in which in a supply heli there is only 3-4 two pilots and two crewman atleast..so Id rather use 3-4 troops in a heli than thousands on the ground and save or debt.. Ex Navy AW....

    October 23, 2010 at 10:05 am | Report abuse |
    • DizRat


      October 23, 2010 at 11:49 am | Report abuse |
    • Vulcan

      Your comment would have a lot more weight if you were even literate.

      October 23, 2010 at 1:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rigel54

      I agree you're having troubles with your literacy. More importantly I don't understand your rambling argument. How is it that these UAVs use more people than manned ones? Everything I know about it suggests that they will cost less, carry more, and use fewer personnel. They will also expose fewer men to hazardous conditions. It's gotta just drive the Taliban crazy!

      October 23, 2010 at 2:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ralph

      First off it does use more people- the UAV's we have right now do not just have a pilot, but a team. But they can do more. Realistically a pilot can not differentiate between targets, do as much surveillance work as is done on UAV's and complete any other missions that are assigned... but its not a need, more like a bonus. One plane, multiple duties... So on to the V22 Osprey... yes it cost alot more then it was suppose to... but the capabilities are significant.

      The bottom line- keeping up with our enemies will take more money. The Chinese, the Russian's, Iran- possible threats... Russia and China more-so. The time will again come where there are multiple super-powers- which will mean there will be more wars down the road. We will have to choose sides- if we fall behind. If we keep up with the Tech and keep a well oiled discipline military... then noone can force us to choose sides... but it will happen... No country, no person, no company, arguably no god has ever stayed on top... so if you think we will be the exception to the rule... well than you have a stupid way of thinking.

      October 24, 2010 at 8:25 am | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      I don't think anyone understands your argument. While the V22 program had a lot of problems I don't see how the UAV program compares to this. The UAV's mentioned are based on previous Helicopter design not tilt rotor and are actually cheaper to fly and maintain than conventional rotor craft. Your argument if flawed.

      October 24, 2010 at 9:12 am | Report abuse |
    • Allen

      The problem with your arguement is that we're not just "keeping up" with our enemies: we are far beyond most potential enemies already.

      We'll never be at war with Russia or China in the first place. All three of us have ICBMs, and no helicopter or jet is as good as deterrent as MAD. Secondly, modern enemies don't even have radar, much less anti-air capability. Al-Qaeda, the Taliban can only touch our helicopters when in range of large-caliber machine guns. Even during the 2003 Invasion of Iraq, anti-air wasn't much of a threat. Sadam Hussein's Pilots in many cases refused to take flight against us, knowing that our F-15s would merely swat them from the sky.

      Speaking of which, no military in the world except the United States currently fields (in any significant number) any plane more capable than the F-15. Russian has its SU-37, of which two were built. It has the Su-35, of which 18 were built and the capabilities demonstrated still did not surpass an F-15.

      And yet we were sticking billions into the F-22 program, and now billions more into the F-35 to replace it. Why do we need a new fighter when we already have the best? And no one is developing one better? Rather than continuing to plow money into air-frames of no use, maybe we should just keep them at concept stage? It'd be cheaper and still keep us abreast of whatever new developments occur.

      Then there are programs for new Aircraft carriers and destroyers. Do the enemies of the modern battlefield have those? Al-Qaeda has speed boats, but not destroyers. Aircraft carriers? No. Instead of building all new hulls, modernizing and re certifying the old ones would be both cost saving and just as effective.

      The only area needing more R&D is for ground troops. They are the ones with the real danger surrounding them. Better body armor and vehicle protection would go a long ways for them. As would developing better IED detection. 7 years into IED hell, and I thought someone would of come up with some sort of ground sonar that would detect the kind of objects that are IEDs.

      October 24, 2010 at 11:04 am | Report abuse |
    • Ted

      George Bush was and Is the great man...leading America through some of our darkest hours..... Bill Clinton is just another smooth talking Arky Horney Toad...they are all over Arkansas..dime a dozen...

      October 25, 2010 at 3:15 am | Report abuse |
  12. kite005

    Sounds like it makes some sense but at the same time if someone shoots it down couldn't they use the on board supplies? There's probably a way to deal with that and I hope that it has been addressed.

    October 23, 2010 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • dartwick

      /rolls eyes

      That is a possibility with any supplies sent into an isolated area.

      October 23, 2010 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |

      The developer can address this concern by building in a self-destruct mechanism, maybe with a proximity fuse that can be disarmed remotely by the properly equipped coalition forces. But, if a bad guy approaches the downed copter, then BOOM!

      October 24, 2010 at 7:53 am | Report abuse |
    • the truth in yooooo

      Yea if it crashes they could bomb the wreck in a number of ways

      October 24, 2010 at 9:37 pm | Report abuse |
  13. rachael

    Save lives...why don't we just carpet bomb Afghanistan and others with nuclear weapons and just get the whole thing over and save lives? That's was the reason in WWII ...to save lives.

    October 23, 2010 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
  14. I-support-It

    @ bilge
    There was nothing false about invading Afghanistan thanks to AQ and Mullah Omar. If Saddam didn't invade Kuwait under false prestenses (bring the 19th province back home) then possibly hundreds of thousands would be alive today. What do I mean? Saddam invades Kuwait – U.S. aids Saudia Arabia – Muslims want U.S. out – Kohbar Towers and WTC bombings – Blind Cleric and Co. attempt UN / Bridge / Tunnel bombing – Embassy bombings – Afghan / Sudan Tomahawk reprisals – USS Cole bombing – 9/11 – Afghan Invasion – Madrid bombings – Iraq Invasion – what will be next?

    October 23, 2010 at 7:26 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Alan Breton

    Nuclear missiles are remote controlled, and a lot cheaper and easier on friendly forces!

    October 24, 2010 at 12:59 am | Report abuse |
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