A K-MAX unmanned cargo helicopter prepares to depart the landing zone at Camp Dwyer in Helmand province, Afghanistan, in 2012. A K-Max crashed near Camp Leatherneck on June 5. (Staff Sgt. Crystal G. Black/Marine Corps)
A K-MAX unmanned helicopter crashed June 5 in Afghanistan while resupplying Marines.
The helo crashed at a landing zone just northeast of Camp Leatherneck while in the final stages of delivering cargo, according to Marine officials in Afghanistan.
An investigation is underway to determine the cause of the crash, and no injuries occurred as a result of the mishap, said Capt. Matthew Beers, a 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward) public affairs officer.
Marine officials did not release a cause for the crash,but said the aircraft was making an “autonomous load delivery.” It was not immediatly clear if the helicopter was being controlled from the ground or making the delivery by flying to preprogrammed coordinates.
The K-MAX is capable of being flown by a pilot aboard or remotely, and it can execute missions autonomously if given a predetermined destination. The Marine Corps, which has flown the helicopter in Afghanistan since November 2011, has used it exclusively as an unmanned platform for resupply missions. It has been operated in theater by Lockheed Martin contractors and Marines.
The helicopter, originally produced as a manned aircraft for logging in the northwestern U.S. by Kaman Aerospace, was retrofitted for unmanned use under a joint effort with Lockheed Martin. The helicopter uses a unique counter-rotating rotor design that negates the need for a tail rotor.
It can deliver about 6,000 pounds of gear, water, food and ammunition and has proven a workhorse Marine leaders utilize to reduce reliance on vulnerable ground convoys.