Two Designs for USMC Unmanned Cargo Lift
Aug 12, 2009
By Paul McLeary
The U.S. Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory has whittled down prospective bidders for its unmanned cargo lift contract to two competitors: the Boeing A160T Hummingbird and the Lockheed Martin/Kaman K-MAX helicopter.
Eliminated from the competition are the Northrop Grumman MQ-8B Fire Scout and the MMIST SnowGoose.
The Marines are looking for an unmanned air vehicle that can resupply its troops in austere locations in Afghanistan and can deliver at least 2,500 pounds of cargo in less than six hours for three consecutive days. The original request for proposals called for the autonomous cargo platform to be capable of lifting 750-1,000 pounds of cargo (or 10,000 pounds of cargo in a 24-hour period) while flying at a 12,000-feet density altitude, and be able to reach 15,000 feet with a full cargo load while maintaining a 70-knot airspeed on a 150-nautical mile round trip.
As part of the downselect to two competitors, Boeing received $500,000 and the Lockheed/Kaman team $860,000 to demonstrate their designs by February 2010. Following that, if there is a clear winner and a vehicle ready to be deployed, the Marines will issue a contract for immediate deployment to Afghanistan.
The announcement was expected in mid-July, but it came at the start of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems Internationalâs trade show in and around Washington, D.C., this week.
The Marine demonstration is relatively modest in its ambitions, but at least one bidder believes unmanned systems could turn the battlefield logistics equation on its head, making cargo delivery by air more cost-effective than by ground.
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