“Marines are sending unmanned helicopters to Afghanistan to test a safer way to supply troops deep inside hostile territory. The 3-ton, twin-rotor K-MAX, built by Lockheed and Kaman, will be capable of ferrying up to 3 tons of supplies. Human controllers will guide it from its main base to isolated forward-operating bases. The goal: replacing risky truck convoys that are exposed to ambushes and roadside bombs.”
With these four short sentences, TIME Magazine named the Unmanned Kaman K-MAX® as one of its “50 Best Inventions” of 2011. It was an important moment for the Helicopters Division and its hard-working team of employees who have always known, as one senior executive said, that “Kaman is something special. From the day Mr. Kaman opened the doors, the company has represented the best of what people can do when they work toward a common goal.”
With a focus on customer and product differentiation through low-cost and technology-based innovative solutions, Kaman Helicopters is well positioned to meet its growth plans and visionary objectives. Here’s a recap of 2011 highlights.
The K-MAX Unmanned Aerial Truck (UAT) developed by Team K-MAX – Lockheed/Kaman, is now deployed to Operation Enduring Freedom. Two aircraft and three ground control stations are in Afghanistan providing unmanned resupply for the U.S. Marine Corps, helping to offload trucks that are so frequently targeted with Improvised Explosive Devices. The trucking operation is moving from the ground to the air with this latest UAV technology capable of carrying 6,000 pounds of payload, and rugged enough for extreme environments. The K-MAX UAT is expected to operate around-the-clock, easily lifting one million pounds a day.
New technologies are rapidly developing, and the K-MAX UAT has the payload capacity, power, and strength to take on multiple missions for the U.S. Military. The U.S. Army has contracted with Kaman’s partner Lockheed Martin to develop those technologies using the Unmanned K-MAX to further the autonomy of Unmanned Aircraft Systems allowing them to do more, at lower cost and most importantly with less threat to human life.
Innovation in helicopter composite rotor blade technology is a rapidly growing business at the Helicopters Division Blade Center of Excellence (BCE) and Subcontracting (HeliworX™) Center. The BCE is a full-service aerospace innovation and manufacturing support center and a growth engine for the future. In addition to establishing a low-cost manufacturing facility and expanding its BCE, the company is producing the initial production standard composite rotor blades for the AH-6 “Little Bird,” with the MD 500 and MD 600 Series blades to follow. Kaman is also building helicopter blade assemblies for Bell helicopters and the MD 900 rotor system. With its partner Hontek, the company has successfully introduced a three-layer, color-specific (for visual inspection) sprayable erosion coating that has significantly extended the lifespan and reduced the life cycle costs of U.S. Army BLACK HAWK helicopter main rotor blades. Approximately 100 BLACK HAWK helicopter blades are being coated at Kaman each month, with over 2,300 blades coated to date. U.S. Army, U.S. Navy and international customers are evaluating the coating to protect blades on Apache, CHÃ¢â¬â53E, and UH-72 Lakota helicopters. Kaman is the only certified facility authorized to apply the Hontek coating and is currently installing a robotic spray facility at its Bloomfield, Conn. site. Backed by Kaman’s infrastructure and expertise, HeliworX is the only subcontractor with the OEM advantage capable of offering design/analysis, manufacturing, upgrade, modifications and test and flight solutions. Other capabilities include integration, composite and metallic bonding, final assembly, rotor blade whirl towers, and sand erosion test facility and flight test.
With the increased SH-2 Seasprite and K-MAX fleet sizes, Kaman continues to expand its Aftermarket business by supporting existing and new customers worldwide. Upgrades to the Egyptian SH-2s, a new SH-2 ASW variant, the Unmanned K-MAX USMC deployment, and the migration of Kaman’s tremendous expertise to other platforms is driving the strategic growth of this important business segment.
Kaman continues to actively market the highly capable and mission-ready Seasprite SH-2G(I) helicopters to international naval customers. These aircraft offer an affordable small ship capability for conventional naval missions of anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare, and can effectively engage asymmetric threats characteristic of today’s maritime operations.
The Egyptian Air Force is entering its 13th year of successful robust performance of its SH-2G(E) helicopter fleet. Other international militaries using the Super Seasprite include the Royal New Zealand Air Force and the Polish Navy.
For more information: Mark.Tattershall@kaman.com