Marines were deployed in Afghanistan in 2011 to outlying bases in rough terrain of spare brush, soft sand, and rock-covered mountains. There were few paved roads, or no roads at all, from one base to another. Resupplying Marines across the many forward operating and patrol bases was an expensive and difficult challenge often fraught with risk.
Supplies were flown into a major forward operating base (FOB), such as Camp Leatherneck in Helmand Province, and then driven to outlying bases as far as several hundred kilometers away. The enemy persistently planted improvised explosive devices along the routes, putting the drivers and passengers at great risk. While there were tactics and technology to mitigate the danger, these often added significant time to the resupply mission and were never infallible. Time is something forward elements in the fight cannot afford to lose.
1. Office of the Secretary of Defense, “Fiscal Year 2018 DoD Fixed Wing and Helicopter Reimbursement Rates,” 12 October 2018.
2. Jay Price, “Drone Cargo Helicopters Prove Worth in Afghanistan, Leading Way to Civilian Uses,” McClatchy, 6 May 2013.
3. Bud Sauvageau, “K-MAX Cargo Unmanned Aerial System,” October 2011 capability briefing released by Naval Air Systems Command, public release number 11-571.