The Navy and Marine Corps’ plans to field a cargo unmanned aircraft system are moving forward as the first of two potential UAS helicopters landed at Pax River, July 1.
The Navy and Marine Corps Multi-Mission Tactical Unmanned Air Systems program office (PMA-266) coordinated the arrival of Lockheed Martinâ€™s KMAX helicopter, one of the systems that will potentially deploy to Afghanistan later this year.
â€œOur team has worked very hard to respond to an urgent needs requirement for a Cargo UAS capability in support of Marine Corps forces engaged in Operation Enduring Freedom,â€ said Capt. Patrick Smith, program manager for PMA-266.
In December 2010, PMA-266 awarded contracts to two suppliers, Lockheed Martin and Boeing/Frontier Aviation, for potential deployment support in Afghanistan. In order to meet the urgent operational needs of the Marine Corps, both suppliers were selected to reduce potential deployment delays and possible inability to meet performance requirements.
The Navy plans to deploy one of the systems that has demonstrated ability to meet technical requirements following a favorable Quick Reaction Assessment (QRA). The second system may be used for future operational missions and/or science and technology development.
The Lockheed Martin KMAX will begin Electromagnetic Environmental Effects (E3) testing at the Pax River facility. The purpose of E3 testing is to measure and provide results regarding the aircraft’s electromagnetic susceptibility to certain frequencies, which can affect flight-critical and other systems within the aircraft. The Boeing/Frontier Aviation Hummingbird will go through the same testing at a later date
â€œBoth the KMAX and Boeing A-160T â€œHummingbirdâ€ are required to go through E3 testing prior to the QRA,â€ said Eric Pratson, integrated product team lead for the Cargo UAS program. â€œThis will help insure that the aircraft operates as designed while being exposed to ambient electrical signals in Afghanistan.â€
After completing E3 testing, two KMAX UAS will be shipped to Yuma Proving Ground, Ariz. in preparation for QRA planned for August 2011. Under the guidance of Commander Operational Test and Evaluation Force, Marines from Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron (VMU) 1 will act as operational commanders and forward operating base controllers for a seven day period. During that time, the system is required to deliver 6,000 pounds of slung load cargo per day.
â€œA successful QRA will prove sustainment of a cargo-carrying capability in an operational environment,â€ Pratson said.
The Navyâ€™s Cargo UAS service will augment Marine Corps ground and air logistics operations in Operation Enduring Freedom. This capability will also supplement rotary wing assets and reduce Marine Corps exposure to Improvised Explosive Devices in theater. The Navy intends to field Cargo UAS in fall 2011 for a six-month deployment.
â€œFielding this system will enable us to keep trucks off the road and keep our troops safe,â€ Smith added.
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