Kaman is best known in the aviation world for unorthodox helicopters, but the US-based group is increasingly expanding in the UK in fields such as aerostructures.

In May it opened a new 34,000ft² (3,159m²) "tooling centre of excellence" in Burnley, northwest England. Space freed by the move at its previous facility at nearby Darwen will now be dedicated to composite manufacture.

Kaman’s ambitions in the UK involve expanding its tooling and manufacturing capabilities to meet the increased size requirements of modern aircraft structures assembly tooling. To this end, it has installed a 20m, five-axis milling machine at Burnley capable of machining the largest aerospace tools. One of the products from the factory will be the tool that makes major sections of the Airbus A350’s wings.

Also being installed at Burnley is a 6m co-ordinate measuring machine that will be used for complex high-precision digital inspections of components. The company says the new site will also become one of the few UK locations to have a state-of-the-art design suite for enhanced design and manufacturing.

Although only just opened, Kaman already plans to expand Burnley to 64,000ft² in 2015.

Kaman is also expanding in Germany. It bought bearings specialist RWG in 2012 and has tripled its revenue since then. Having outgrown its previous location in Dachsbach, southern Germany, a new 60,000ft² facility at nearby Hӧchstadt will double capacity and provide options for future expansion.



In the US, the Bloomfield, Connecticut-based Kaman brought a new engineering plant in Charleston, South Carolina, on line in February.

“We’re definitely on the move,” says Gary Tenison, Kaman's group vice-president for aerospace business development. “We’re right on the edge of great things.”

The group is today split between aerospace and industrial distribution sectors. Despite producing just 37% of 2013’s $1.7 billion turnover, the aerospace section of the organisation accounted for 71% of the group’s $148 million operating profit.

Kaman Aerosystems is the largest activity within the company, covering both metal and composite aerostructures, as well as tooling, testing and air vehicles. Customers include other major manufacturers such as Spirit AeroSystems, GE Aviation and Aircell. Fuzing & Precision Products and Specialty Bearings & Engineered Products form the other two legs of the Kaman Aerospace triad.

The company produces fuzes for a range of US aviation ordnance, including Amraam, Maverick and Tomahawk missiles as well as the Joint Direct Attack Munition and Paveway bombs.

Although rotary-wing craft have formed the basis of Kaman’s existence, it does not currently have any new-build helicopters in production. However, it remains involved in the business: more than 20 manned K-MAX cargo helicopters, with the company’s trademark contra-rotating propellers, operate in areas such as firefighting and logging, and the company is prepared to restart production if the market shows sufficient interest.

Several examples of its groundbreaking unmanned K-MAX were deployed to Afghanistan by the US Army, where two of the vehicles moved more than 4.5 million lbs (2 million kg) of cargo in around 1,900 missions, primarily at night.

“Its performance has been fantastic for reliability,” says Tenison. “It required just 1.3-1.4 maintenance hours per flight hour. It’s now being redeployed to a US base where it will continue to perform and be studied.”

Kaman’s aircraft portfolio also includes the SH-2G Super Seasprite naval helicopter. Another out-of-production type, Kaman retains airframes that are available for upgrade for customers.

The Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) is awaiting the imminent arrival of the first of 10 SH-2G(I) variants (two of which will be used as spares) that will replace five earlier examples of the type and allow the RNZN to have more helicopters available. The current fleet of five only allows two to be at sea at any given time. All 10 new examples should be delivered by the end of 2015.

The Super Seasprite also serves with Poland and Egypt, and Tenison says Kaman is hoping to close deals with other nations for further examples that are available to upgrade.

Elsewhere in the rotary-wing sector, Kaman produces lower fuselages, cockpits and doors for the Bell AH-1Z Viper, and has delivered more than 1,000 cockpits to Sikorsky for its Black Hawk helicopter.

Source: Flight International