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, according to a report Thursday.
The U.S. Navy is seeking a contractor to operate the program, scheduled for 2011, the report in Stars and Stripes said.
â€œThis 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,â€ Eric Pratson, leader of the Navy team behind the project, told Stripes.
Lockheed-Martin and Kaman Aerospace say their K-MAX unmanned helicopter system can do the job. They tested it at the Armyâ€™s Dugway Proving Ground earlier this year and it met or exceeded requirements, according to a Lockheed-Martin statement.
â€œIt keeps our Marines readily resupplied and out of harmâ€™s way,â€ 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.
Boeingâ€™s A160T Hummingbird unmanned copter is also expected to compete for the contract, according to the Stripes report. Boeingâ€™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.