Kaman Aerospace has received a contract to reactivate two unmanned US Marine Corps K-MAX helicopters to flight operations.
The two helicopters are currently located at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma in Arizona. Kaman will transport the helicopters to Bloomfield, Connecticut, where it will perform the contract work to reactivate them.
Designated as CQ-24A, the helicopters served in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom for a period of 33 months between 2011 and 2013.
During the deployment, both aircraft performed combat resupply and logistical support missions, carrying more than 4.5 million pounds of cargo throughout Afghanistan between forward operating bases and remote outposts.
The Marine Corps intends to replace the current unmanned system on the CQ-24A aircraft with new technology advancements.
The contract comes after the service recently finalised plans to return the two CQ-24A K-MAX helicopters to flight-ready status. The plans also include installation of the latest autonomous technology to support future unmanned efforts.
Once Kaman returns the aircraft to operational status, it will partner with the Marine Corps to develop and integrate next-generation autonomous technology.
Kaman Air Vehicles & MRO division vice-president and general manager Darlene Smith said: “We are honoured to have the opportunity to pair manned and unmanned capabilities to support our deployed troops and government agencies at home.
“We have also identified a number of missions that will benefit from unmanned capabilities, including aerial firefighting and humanitarian relief, and are looking forward to aligning with domestic and international operators in need of these capabilities.”
The company is focused on improving the design of optionally piloted vehicles for future commercial applications.
Moreover, Kaman intends to make this capability available as an option for existing and future new aircraft.
Developed by Kaman, the Marine Corps K-MAX helicopters are rugged low-maintenance aircraft capable of lifting up to 6,000lb. The helicopters feature a counter-rotating rotor system.
Kaman successfully reopened its K-MAX production line in Jacksonville, Florida, in 2017 and delivered the first airframe to the Connecticut facility for assembly, testing, and certification.