Just in time for the big ol' AUVSI unmanned systems show in Washington, D.C. this week, the U.S. Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory announced that it has narrowed down the 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 UAVs.
As I wrote in the July/August issue of DTI, the Marines are looking for an unmanned air vehicle that can resupply its troops in austere locations in Afghanistan, and can deliver at least 2,500lb of cargo in less than six hours for three consecutive days. The original Request for Proposal called for the autonomous cargo platform to be capable of lifting 750-1,000lb of cargo (or 10,000lb of cargo in a 24-hour period) while flying at a 12,000-ft. density altitude, and be able to reach 15,000 ft. with a full cargo load while maintaining a 70 knot airspeed on a 150 nautical mile round trip. As part of the winnowing down to two competitors, Boeing received $500,000 and the Lockheed/Kaman team $860,000 in order to demonstrate their designs by February. Following that, if there is a clear winner and a vehicle ready to be deployed, the USMC will issue a contract for immediate deployment to Afghanistan.