Why Would the Pentagon Kill One of Its Most Effective "Drone" Programs? – NASDAQ.com

Over three years’ service in Afghanistan, a tiny flight of K-MAX unmanned helicopters built by Kaman Aerospace and Lockheed Martin , has successfully completed 1,950 sorties, flown 2,150 flight hours, and delivered 4.5 million pounds of cargo to U.S. Marines in the Afghan wilderness — all without suffering a single loss of life in combat.

So naturally, the Pentagon is killing the program.

via Why Would the Pentagon Kill One of Its Most Effective “Drone” Programs? – NASDAQ.com.

I was fairly skeptical of the K-MAX drone program at first. I’ve been fairly converted since.

I’m sure the Marines would love to continue to have the capability to deliver cargo at low risk to isolated units.

But this is a niche capability, and the Marine budget simply won’t cover all the “wants” when it can’t even really cover all the “needs.”

The K-MAX works well… inĀ  a relatively benign environment. In the face of any air defenses, it would be terribly vulnerable, even more so than most manned helicopters. Losing a drone isn’t a big deal, what with no loss of life, but the failure to deliver cargo would be a big deal.

And it’s not like the capability can’t be regenerated at a later date, even if the airframe used is a different one.

3 thoughts on “Why Would the Pentagon Kill One of Its Most Effective "Drone" Programs? – NASDAQ.com”

    1. There’s vulnerable, and then there’s helpless. K-MAX has no RHAW, IRCM, chaff, flares, nor ability to detect, let alone avoid ground fire.

  1. Just came across an article from Inside Defense. Could explain why the Marines pulled the plug too.

    An Army cargo unmanned aerial system could cost nearly twice as much as operating and sustaining an equal capability from a current service helicopter, according to a new report on the potential utility of a cargo UAS for the Army.

    The May 13 report, sent from Army Secretary John McHugh to Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) on June 18, addresses how cargo UAS capabilities “could be incorporated into the Army’s logistics operations from point-of-supply through delivery to point-of need.”

    The document also estimates “the cost to procure, operate, and sustain cargo UAS in comparison to using manned rotorcraft for the same missions,” and addresses “any additional or logistical impacts to the Army of fielding a cargo UAS,” the report states. “Currently the focus of Army UAS continues to be reconnaissance and surveillance missions with development of a cargo UAS capability in its infancy.”

    The document is a result of language in the House Armed Services Committee’s version of the fiscal year 2014 defense authorization bill that directed the service to submit a report assessing the potential utility of an Army cargo UAS. Lawmakers had said they were concerned that the Army does not have a cargo UAS program like the Marine Corps’ K-MAX (Inside the Army, May 27, 2013).

    Using data from a 2012 Joint Medium Range Maritime Unmanned Aerial System (MRMUAS) Analysis of Alternatives (AOA) — which provided cost data for three different Army-configured, medium-size rotary wing alternatives to conduct either intelligence operations or cargo UAS missions — the Army found “the total cost to develop, procure, operate and sustain four K-MAX cargo UAS is approximately [$321.4 million] prorated of 30-years Life Cycle Cost.” The cost to operate and sustain an equal capability provided by four manned UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters would only be $170.1 million as “there are no associated development costs for the UH-60” due to the fact the Army has already invested to develop the capability, according to the report.

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