unmaned cargo K-Max.
Gary Tenison, vice president of business development and marketing for Kaman Aerospace, told Rotor & Wing that the company’s recent restructuring is part of a strategy to focus on operators. “One Kaman is about consolidating the Kaman business,” he said. “Helicopters were once apart and are now within the Aerosystems group. We are consolidating our capabilities toward the customer and putting a new sales team around the world to take these capabilities to the market.”
Tenison noted that many Kaman customers were not aware of the breadth of the business. Operationally, the company formulated the Aerosystems group, including Helicopter Structures and Engineering, and the Engineering Products group. “We wanted to position ourselves as a design/build risk sharing partner and leverage our engineering expertise that used to be Global Aerosystems in Seattle, providing engineering, design and analyses together with project management. We have a lot of engineers embedded with Boeing programs,” added Tenison.
Kaman is in the commercial aircraft door design business, including the Bombardier Learjet 85. “We are also talking to Eurocopter about potentially doing some work with them [Eurocopter produces doors for Airbus airliners],” continued Tenison. “This is the first business jet door but we have done other work and tooling.” He said that in the current market, all the OEMs were looking to downsize their number of suppliers and to consolidate with suppliers who can offer greater capability and the ability to bear some financial risk. “Our customers are interested in consolidating with us because although we are not very large, we run the gamut of capabilities that you would normally expect from a larger company. We can do metals, composites and bondments, stuffing of structure and can do all of these in-house,” added Tenison.
Regarding Kaman’s K-Max cargo UAS—a partnership with Lockheed Martin—Terrance Fogarty, general manager of the UAS Group, said that he expects the deployment be extended again within a week of the end of HAI. “That will take us out to September at a minimum, and there is discussion beyond that but no funding,” he said. “We are available over 90 percent of the time… and they want to keep them in theater. They have lifted over 2.5 million pounds of cargo—how many trucks has that taken off the road?”
He said that unmanned K-Max had even had some armed escorts when flying to certain destinations in Afghanistan when the delivery was really important. The integration within USMC is now so far that it is included in a variety of operations, not just those originally envisaged. “As an example of extending the envelope we have installed some auxiliary fuel tanks in the cargo area—this is essentially an off-the-shelf concept that we designed 10 years ago but gives them an extra 60 gallons of fuel which means around an extra 45 minutes flight time.” While USMC operational data is classified, Fogarty said that Kaman had tested the K-Max UAS up to 15,000 feet in the United States with a 3,500-lb. load out of Yuma, Ariz. “We’ve had a USMC commander saying that this was ‘the rock star’ of UAS for the Marines. We have briefed many officers in the Army look at this and of course the Navy is interested.” Data from the Logistics Innovation Agency and the Army are doing scenarios and cost comparisons on using the K-Max against more traditional forms of supply. The unmanned K-Max is not available for foreign military sales (FMS) currently, although there has been interest from Poland, the British Royal Navy and from the French Navy.
“There is a lot going on and a lot of interest because of our success in Afghanistan. It has allowed us to bring the K-Max back into other people’s thoughts,” he admitted. At HAI, interest has been re-sparked in K-Max and Fogerty says that they have been asked for a helicopter and when could they get one. They are again looking at the K-Max performance during the U.S. fire season and thoughts are moving towards the value of an unmanned aircraft operating here—particularly at night and by using thermal imaging.
Related: Unmanned News