The K-MAX unmanned cargo helicopter demonstrated operation sustainability during a key test for the program, the Navy said yesterday as it seeks a system for ferrying supplies to soldiers in remote locations on the battlefield.

The five-day Quick Reaction Assessment (QRA) drills took place at the Yuma Proving Ground, Ariz., in mid-August. Lockheed Martin [LMT] is the lead on K-MAX in partnership with Kaman Aerospace [KAMN]. The unmanned helicopter system is intended to reduce the risks associated with moving supplies in ground convoys.

"The Quick Reaction Assessment proved sustainment of a cargo-carrying capability in an operational environment," Capt. Patrick Smith, the CARGO UAS program manager at the Navy’s Patuxent River, Md., facility, said. "We look forward to deploying a capability that will supplement rotary wing assets and reduce Marine Corps exposure to improvised explosive devices in theater."

The Navy is to release a formal QRA evaluation 30 days after completion of the test.

Lockheed Martin is competing with Boeing’s [BA] A160T Hummingbird, a system it inherited after acquiring Frontier Systems in 2004. The Navy wants to deploy CARGO UAS to Afghanistan for a six-month period to further evaluate its effectiveness.

A QRA timeframe for the Hummingbird was still pending, Jamie Cosgrove, a spokesperson for Naval Air Systems Command, said.
 
Boeing is also under contract to develop the A160 for the Army as an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft. Navy officials awarded dueling development contracts to Lockheed Martin and Boeing in December to create an unmanned airlift capability, in response to an urgent requirements request by Marine Corps forces operating in Afghanistan.