The Kaman K-Max (K-1200) is a distinctively designed medium-lift helicopter created by the US-based Kaman Aircraft of Bloomfield, Connecticut. Its main mission is battlefield resupply.
The K-MAX is a direct descendent of earlier helicopters from World War II; the German Flettner FI 265 and 282 respectively. Intended mainly as an external cargo lifting helicopter, the K-MAX is an example of a synchropter; a helicopter with intermeshing rotors.
This design is one approach to the torque problem which systems such as NOTAR, tail rotors and tandem rotors also solve. For cargo helicopters that need maximum lift having tandem rotor designs such as the CH-47 Chinook is a great solution, but these aircraft are anything but compact. They require large crews and are very expensive comparatively. The CH-47 is 30 m in length, while the K-MAX only measures 16 m and can carry a total payload that isn’t far off the original CH-47’s specifications.
Thanks to its design and a single Honeywell T53-17 turboshaft engine, the K-MAX is a fast moving aircraft with considerable payload capacity, which tops out at 6,855 lb (3109 kg). The K-MAX will cruise with that load at 92 mph (148.2 km/h) and, crucially, at an altitude of up to 15,000 ft. (4572m). This puts it out of reach for many small caliber anti-aircraft autocannons and of course small arms fire and unguided missiles.
The K-MAX only requires a single crew member and thanks to its relatively simple operation it is a candidate for unmanned flight, with drone versions already in development.
The K-MAX was produced from 1991 to 2003, with just over 38 units built. Its potential for drone conversion had however renewed interest in the craft and production has restarted in 2015. The K-MAX is priced at about $5 million today, but when it was released this figure was $3.5 million. Ten commercial orders have been placed for the K-MAX and the first expected deliveries are in 2017.