KABUL, Afghanistan — The U.S. military is testing a revolutionary new drone for its arsenal, a pilotless helicopter intended to fly cargo missions to remote outposts where frequent roadside bombs threaten access by road convoys.
Surveillance drones for monitoring enemy activity and armed versions for launching airstrikes have become a trademark of America’s wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East. But this is the first time a chopper version designed for transport has been used operationally.
Two unmanned models of the Kaman K-MAX helicopters and a team of 16 company technicians and 8 Marines are conducting a 6-month evaluation program for the new craft at Camp Dwyer, a Marine Corps airfield in the Garmsir district of southern Helmand Province.
The craft have flown 20 transport missions since the inaugural flight on Dec. 17, said Maj. Kyle O’Connor, the officer in charge of the detachment. They have delivered nearly 18 tons of cargo, mainly thousands of Meals Ready to Eat and spare parts needed at the forward operating bases.
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