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The Marines' Self-Flying Chopper Survives a Three-Year Tour

•, By Alex Davies
The work is usually done by human-driven ground vehicles that are susceptible to improvised explosive devices and insurgent attacks. Lockheed Martin landed the $45.8 million contract to make it happen. Rather than design an aircraft from scratch, they found the Kaman K-1200 K-MAX, which it fit their needs perfectly.

The military-spec version of the helicopter is now back in the U.S. after a three-year tour, and Lockheed is finding new ways to use it in civilian and military affairs. That makes now a good time to look at the work the K-MAX has already done, and the story behind it.

Lockheed chose the helicopter and teamed up with Kaman for its reliability and lifting capacity, says Jon McMillen, manager of business development for the aircraft. Certified in 1994, the Kaman helicopter was designed for heavy duties like logging operations, power line construction, firefighting, and installing ski lifts. It can haul 6,000-pound loads at sea level and 4,000 pounds at 15,000 feet.

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