Boeing’s [BA] A-160T unmanned helicopter will not be making its way to Afghanistan to participate in a program designed under an urgent requirement to ferry supplies to Marines in remote locations in the country, Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) said yesterday.

The A-160T Hummingbird was one of two systems along with Lockheed Martin’s [LMT] K-MAX competing in the Cargo UAS program for the mission.

The Navy and Marine Corps deployed two K-MAXs to Afghanistan in November and the helicopters have since carried out flights to supply troops, drawing praise in recent remarks by senior Marine officers.

The A-160T, however, has encountered technical problems, prompting the Marine Corps to issue a 60-day stop work order in December (Defense Daily, Dec. 22). NAVAIR says there are now no plans to send Hummingbird to Afghanistan.

“The Navy and Marine Corps will not be deploying the A160 Hummingbird for the current military utility assessment in Afghanistan,” Eric Pratson, NAVAIR’s lead for the Cargo UAS integrated product team, said in a statement. “The government team is working with Boeing on a path forward for the existing contract.”  

Asked whether this meant the A-160T’s participation in the Cargo UAS was heading toward termination, NAVAIR spokeswoman Jamie Cosgrove said it will not be used in Afghanistan for the current requirement and that the command was “working through what to do with the existing contract.”

Boeing spokeswoman Elaine Brabant said the company is still operating under the Dec. 15 cease work order and that there has been no activity on the Marine Corps side of the program. “We’re waiting to find out what the next steps are going to be.”

The A-160T is also under a separate development contract with the Army for intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance missions.

The Navy awarded dueling development contracts to Lockheed Martin and Boeing in December 2010 to create an unmanned airlift capability in response to an urgent requirements request by Marines in Afghanistan. The unmanned, autonomous flying helicopters are intended to reduce risks, such as ambushes or improvised explosive devices (IEDs), associated with moving supplies on the ground.

Lockheed Martin teamed up with Kaman Aerospace [KAMN] to offer K-MAX. Boeing inherited the Hummingbird when it acquired Frontier Systems in 2004. K-MAX cleared a Quick Reaction Assessment (QRA) last summer before deploying to Afghanistan. The A-160T has not reached the QRA phase.

Lt. Gen. Richard Mills, the Marine deputy commandant for combat development and integration, said in January that reports of K-MAX’s performance in Afghanistan were “very good.” He added, however, he would like to see it increase its payload capability.