Elmira/Corning Regional Airport
Unmanned Military Helicopter Homecoming
Written By: Asha McKenzie
OWEGO (WENY) -- It was a special military homecoming in Owego earlier today.
That's because the first unmanned helicopter, known as the K-MAX, made its way back home after three years in Afghanistan.
The remote-controlled aircraft was designed to fly supplies into combat zones.
After over 2,000 combat hours, it was a welcome home landing for the K-MAX team in Owego.
This first of its kind unmanned military helicopter carried cargo through dangerous territory in Afghanistan, with not one single bullet hole.
The helicopters made it possible to transport important supplies and minimize the danger to troops.
"Looking at our allies, looking at our Marines, we're estimating probably well over 190 convoys," said Captain Patrick Smith, Program Manager for Navy and Marine Corps Multi - Mission Tactical UAS Program Office. "I know that we went back, have done analysis to statistic that were going there. And showing the lives that were most likely saved or not impacted."
Back in 2011, Lockheed Martin Owego, the US Navy and Marines planned to deploy the helicopter for just 6 months.
But after multiple successful missions, 6 months turned into three years.
"Today was a celebration about the people who put it in theatre and supported it," said Daniel C. Schultz, Vice President and General Manager of Lockheed Martin Mission Systems. "And also the work that this team does in Owego to put technology out that saves lives for our soldiers."
Those involved with the success of this groundbreaking innovation say they are proud of the role they played to assist those fighting overseas; delivering roughly 4 1/2 million pounds of cargo - everything from ammunition to food and water.
"We came a long way, we were doing in a day what they initially tested us to do In week as they were developing the concept," said Major Kyle O'Connor, Chief of Naval Air Training Staff. "And from point A to point B you're not going to get there without a lot of stuff happening."
Now there are two of these unmanned helicopters, and while this one is here, the next one is due back home before the end of the year.
For now, Both K-MAX helicopters will be put in storage, so the military can look into more demonstration capabilities.