Sheridan company tries for Navy contracts - KOTA Territory News

Sheridan company tries for Navy contracts

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When you think of national defense contracts, names like Boeing and Lockheed Martin probably come to mind.

But a KOTA Territory company is trying to change that image.

The bigger the corporation, said Mark Weitz, vice president of research and development at Kennon Products in Sheridan, the harder it is to do things quickly.

"We can turn on a dime," Weitz said of the small business he works for. "We can move out real fast."

That's one reason he said Kennon competes for defense contracts.

"We participate fully in sending the war fighter," Weitz said. "I think we should be able to participate fully in addressing the needs of the war fighter."

One of the needs Kennon products is trying to address is transporting vehicles by helicopter.

"Those vehicles, like Humvees, are not aerodynamic at all," which means they slow helicopters down.

Kennon is competing for a defense contract to produce covers to streamline the vehicles during transport.

"We need to turn this Humvee into something that can fly 225 knots," Weitz said. "Not an easy proposition."

"You don't just drape it with a tarp and call it good," he joked.

But the Humvee cover isn't Kennon's first shot at defense contracts.

The company's been designing protective covers for military aircraft and other equipment for years.

And then there's the bullet-proof stuff.

"What we're trying to do at this juncture is come up with what's known as a level 3A type of ballistic resistance, which is for the very large or very fast types of 9mm," said Dr. Gwynedd Thomas, an associate professor at Auburn University.

Thomas is working with Kennon to produce lightweight, textile-based armor for military aircraft.

Though pieces of the material can stop 9mm rounds at point-blank range, they're not ready for aircraft just yet.

"We're getting closer every single time we're doing these tests," Thomas said at a Sheridan firing range.

These particular tests were for scaled-up versions of the material. Researchers wanted to see if larger sizes had any effect on ballistic resistance.

As for the Humvee covers, Weitz said it'll still be a few months before they know whether or not they got the contract.

But even if they don't get that one, he said they'll keep pushing into the defense sector.

"Does it protect valuable assets?" Weitz asked himself. "Absolutely. Does it help our war fighter? Absolutely."

"That's the kind of research that compels us."

Companies like Kennon get funding through Small Business Innovation Research, or SBIR.

It's a federal program that provides research grants to smaller companies.

SBIR likes to team up small businesses with universities or bigger corporations.

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