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17 June 2015

USMC Take Note: K-MAX Flies Again

There are times when it is a genuine pleasure to report good news. Talking to Kaman director of business development, Terry Fogarty at Paris Air Show, was once such occasion. The last time we had met was only in Februaury this year at HAI Heli-Expo in Orlando when he was trying to obtain sufficient deposits necessary to reopen the K-MAX helicopter production line.

USMC K-MAX in Afghanistan.
On Tuesday, he confirmed that his company had been able to make the decision to reopen the K-MAX production line later this year (the company had wisely saved their machine tools after building only 38 aircraft, the last of which was in 2003). The fuselages will be made in Jacksonville, Florida, with final assembly being completed at the company’s Bloomfield Connecticut site.

The first delivery of a new K-Max will be in January 2017,” said Fogerty. Although he could not be specific on when metal would start being pressed he said that the tooling and vendors were in place.

We made the announcement during the company’s 70th birthday celebrations in early June,” said Fogerty, adding that the reaction of the workforce was almost one of those ‘yup, we did it’ moments.

Over the years, Kaman has had to turn away a steady stream of potential customers who wanted a K-MAX. “It will be the same aircraft as before, but with obvious software and mechanical upgrades due to certain original parts not being available today. Once we get into production, we will start to think of additional modifications to what may be a Lot 2 aircraft.”

The US Marine Corps (USMC) , who successfully extended their trial of an unmanned K-MAX in Afghanistan for several years, can now look at the Lockheed Martin/Kaman Aerospace partnership in the knowledge that a brand new K-MAX fleet can be produced if they continue down the unmanned resupply route that they conclusely proved in Afghanistan.

Fogerty said that software changes to the UAS aircraft will be demonstrated at Griffiss International Airport in Rome, New York state. Last year the US Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration confirmed Griffiss as an unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) test site.  

Fogerty said that one of the improvements included increasing waypoint accuracy for missions including water dropping for fire-fighting missions. In Idaho, later in the month, the K-Max UAS will demonstrate its fire fighting capability by water bombing a hill side.
Andrew Drwiega

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