The U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) is reactivating two unmanned Kaman Aerospace K-Max helicopters (CQ-24As) that were used in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom from 2011-2013. The helicopters are currently in Yuma, Arizona, but will be transported to Kaman’s Bloomfield, Connecticut facility for retrofit with the latest generation of unmanned systems and returned to flight status. After that, Kaman said it will continue to collaborate with the USMC to develop and integrate next-generation autonomous technology.
During its 33-month Afghanistan deployment, the unmanned K-Max moved 4.5 million pounds of cargo or the equivalent of 900 ground supply convoys, eliminating 46,000 hours of exposure to improvised explosive devices, direct fire, and other threats. The aircraft flew exclusively at night between forward operating bases and remote outposts.
The K-Max was first certified in 1994 by the FAA. It features a counter-rotating, intermeshing rotor system and is designed to fly external loads up to 6,000 pounds and is powered by a single Honeywell T53-17 turboshaft flat rated to 1,500 shp (takeoff). Civilian production was shuttered in 2003 after an initial production run of 38 aircraft but restarted in 2015 based on renewed customer demand.
Kaman said it is continuing to improve the design of optionally piloted vehicles for future commercial applications, including aerial firefighting and humanitarian relief, for new and existing aircraft.