With the worst casualties in recent wars coming from Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) on cargo convoys, the deployment of the K-MAX huge Unmanned Helicopter has helped reduce Marines’ exposure to dangerous, even deadly, situations. Although it’s capable of lifting up to 6,000 pounds, the K-MAX is considered a “medium” size lift helicopter.
K-MAX was designed specifically for highly repetitive, heavy lifting or crane operations including logging, fire fighting, oil and gas exploration, construction and ship replenishment and, of course, military resupply operations. The helicopter can fly autonomously over large distances and at higher altitudes than other large payload helicopters and can deliver payloads as large as a compact car.
The K-MAX burns an average of 85 gallons of fuel per hour during lift operations, the most efficient lift-to-fuel ratio of any helicopter in its class. (Specifications Courtesy www.kaman.com)
- Max gross weight 12,000 lb/ 5443 kg
- Max takeoff weight (without external load) 7,000 lb/ 3175 kg
- Empty weight 5,145 lb/ 2334 kg
- Useful load 6,855 lb/ 3109 kg
- Cargo hook capacity 6,000 lb/ 2722 kg
- Lift Performance — ISA +15° C
- Sea Level 6,000 lb/ 2722 kg
- 5,000 feet 5,663 lb/ 2574 kg
- 10,000 feet 5,163 lb/ 2347 kg
- 15,000 feet 4,313 lb/ 1960 kg
- Hover Performance — 4,000 feet, 35° C (95° F)
- Hover IGE 12,000 lb/ 5443 kg
- Hover OGE 11,500 lb/ 5216 kg
- Model Honeywell T53-17A1 gas turbine
- Thermodynamic rating 1,800 shaft horsepower
- Maximum airspeed
- Without external load 100 kt/ 185.2 kph
- With external load 80 kt/ 148.2 kph
K-MAX is a synchrocopter, meaning that the two rotors are mounted side-by-side but canted away from each other and with rotors that inter-mash. A total of 38 K-MAX helicopters are reported to have been built.
In March, the US Marine Corps announced it would continue to use K-MAX heavy lift helicopters around the world, especially in Afghanistan. A few months later in June, a K-MAX crashed at a landing zone in Afghanistan while resupplying Marines. No one was injured and the crash is under investigation but it’s important to note the K-MAX has more than 1,000 successful missions flown with more than 3 million pounds of gear, water, food, ammunition and other supplies delivered.