Kearfott Guidance & Navigation Corporation designs, develops, manufactures and supports highly reliable, quality products that satisfy the land, air, sea and space navigation and guidance requirements of both military and commercial customers. Michael Terreri zeroes in.
The company began in 1917 as Kearfott Company, Inc. It went through a number of ownership and direction changes during its four-score and nearly seven-year history. In 1952, General Precision Equipment Corporation made it one of its divisions. Singer Company bought the operation in 1968, and in 1987 transformed its mission exclusively to guidance and navigation manufacture. A year later, it became a subsidiary of Astronautics Corporation of America.
Throughout its many changes, however, the company has kept aim on its core strength: providing practical and innovative solutions to address and fulfill the requirements of the most demanding and sophisticated customers. Those demanding and sophisticated customers happen to be, generally, United States and international armed forces, NASA and other domestic and international original-equipment manufacturers that offer service and support to these same organizations.
Kearfott Guidance & Navigation Corporation is headquartered in Wayne, N.J. It operates two production facilities in nearby Little Falls, another in Asheville, N.C., and two more in Matamoros, Mexico. The company boasts more than 1 million square feet in high-tech design and manufacturing space and a work force of more than 1,600 dedicated individuals. Of these, more than 600 are technical employees, including 100 or so who have advanced technical degrees – masters of science and doctors of philosophy in science and engineering.
The Right Direction
Kearfott’s product list is formidable. It includes navigation systems for submarines and surface vessels, torpedo guidance, submarine-launched missile guidance, electronic chart display and information systems, and command and control consoles, some of which are manufactured in state-of-the-art “clean rooms” and automated machine shops. The company’s land-based defense products include mobile howitzer inertial navigation and pointing systems, vehicle navigation systems, tank gunner stabilized sights, tank rate sensor assemblies, ruggedized CRT and LCD displays, and driver-enhanced vision systems. These products incorporate the latest in production technology, as shown by Kearfott’s patented Monolithic Ring Laser Gyro (MRLG).
For aircraft, tactical missile guidance systems and aircraft inertial navigation systems top the list. In addition, Kearfott produces anti-ship missile guidance systems, flight control sensors and activators, aircraft gyroscopes, air data computers, flight and navigation instruments, mission and display processors, control and display units, and electronic flight instrument systems. In space, military and commercial satellite precision pointing systems, star trackers, three-axis accelerometer packages and stellar/inertial guidance systems complete the picture.
Kearfott’s line offers specific products for a wide variety of applications. Many products are satellite-linked. For instance, Kearfott’s Digital Attitude Heading Reference System (AHRS) provides navigation, heading, attitude, velocity, position and auto-pilot functions in digital formats aided by the provided GPS connection satellite. The analogue version provides improved accuracy of both attitude and heading over standard electromechanical systems. The Kearfott K-2000 Series UAV Servo Actuator is a customizable, commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) actuator available with short lead times – as short as two weeks from order to delivery. The Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) uses single-card assembly to provide cost savings and performance.
Teamwork on Display
There is an effective synergy between the parent and the subsidiary. When Astronautics acquired Kearfott Guidance & Navigation Corporation in 1988, the coupling of the Astronautics products – displays and processors – with those of Kearfott, the resources of both organizations provided each other with additional business opportunities. Astronautics and Kearfott are both suppliers and customers for each other’s corporate resources.
Astronautics, incidentally, was founded in 1959. Since the beginning, it has dedicated itself to the design, development and manufacture of displays and computers for aircraft navigational systems, cockpit instrumentation, telecommunication and computer systems, and auto-pilot devices. The abilities and efficiencies of the F-16 and the Mirage jet fighters, the B-1 and B-2 bombers, the C-17, the Blackhawk and Apache helicopters, the Space Shuttle and NASA’s Johnson Space Center are enhanced thanks to the efforts of Astronautics.
More than 80 percent of all the United States’ military aircraft use guidance and display devices that bear the Kearfott or Astronautics brand. The 20,000 aircraft provide the companies with a stable stream of maintenance revenue and the opportunity to upgrade existing equipment with newer, more sophisticated avionics systems that are continuously developed by the Kearfott/Astronautics teams.
Kearfott’s plans for the future include the development of guidance for smart bombs and smart weapons, familiar to the American public since the much-televised accounts of Operation Desert Storm. The Gulf War brought to the fore remarkable advances in warfare technology. Kearfott was part of it, and it will continue to be on the cutting edge in making the guidance equipment for those systems.
Kearfott’s latest invention, the MRLG, will replace single-axis Ring Laser Gyroscopes (RLGs). Gyroscopes are those rotating disks, mechanical in nature, whose purpose is to measure rotational and linear movement without reference to external coordinates. RLGs do the same thing, only with much more reliability. Currently, the company is developing miniature Micromachined Electromechanical Systems (MEMS) technologies for the next generation of smart weaponry. The same technology can and will be used in aerospace navigation.
Overall, the past accomplishments and the future projects of Kearfott Guidance & Navigation Corporation bear testimony to the importance of its work and the quality of its products.