Kaman ends production of K-MAX heavy-lift helicopter

U.S. Marine Corps photo

Kaman Aircraft will discontinue the production of the K-MAX heavy-lift helicopter due to low demand. 

The US manufacturer announced the decision as part of a restructuring of its portfolio to optimize its cost structure. The interrupted production will be accompanied by workforce reductions. 

“Over the past 30 years, Kaman has designed and produced 60 K-MAX® helicopters with unmatched precision and efficiency for industries such as firefighting, construction and emergency response,” Kaman said in a statement. “However, the Company determined that given low demand and variation in annual deliveries, coupled with low profitability and large working capital inventory requirements, K-MAX does not deliver the most compelling growth opportunity for Kaman going forward.” 

The K-MAX helicopter was specifically conceived for heavy lifting, with payloads of up to 6,000 pounds (2.7 tons) at sea level. To do so, the aircraft was making use of a synchropter layout. First studied by German engineer Anton Flettner, this concept counters torque compensation by using two rotors counter-rotating side by side. 

Between 2011 and 2014, two unmanned K-MAX aircraft were successfully used by the US Marines in Afghanistan with the support of Lockheed Martin, transporting over 2000 tons of equipment to isolated combat positions.  

“These two particular aircraft were over in Afghanistan for almost three years flying unhanded, and moving almost five million pounds of cargo, keeping numerous convoys off the road, preventing any roadside attacks,” Jerry McCawley, a Chief Pilot and Flight Safety Engineer with Lockheed Martin explained. 

In 2016, the two helicopters were transported to Marine Corps Air Station Yuma in Arizona to study further applications to USMC operations. 

Kaman indicated that it would continue to manufacture spare parts and ensure the technical support of the aircraft already in service. 

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