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Monday, October 1, 2007

Rotorcraft Report: GAO Rejects USAF’s Revamped CSAR-X Plan

MILITARY/SAR

The U.S. Air Force must sort out how to proceed with fulfilling its helicopter requirements following a watchdog’s second rejection of its plans.

In what is widely considered a highly unusual move, the U.S. General Accountability Office on Aug. 30 upheld a second round of protests by Lockheed Martin and Sikorsky Aircraft and directed the service to draft new plans for the Combat Search and Rescue-X (CSAR-X) procurement to replace its aging fleet of Sikorsky HH-60G Pave Hawks. The Air Force 11 months ago selected Boeing’s CH-47 as the basis for that replacement fleet, but the GAO in February backed the first protests by Lockheed and Sikorsky. The latest ruling nixed the Air Force plan for correcting flaws cited in that first ruling.

In the Aug. 30 ruling, the GAO said the service couldn’t re-compete the $10 billion-plus contract without considering new bid information from the contractors. Lockheed Martin, which is offering a version of the EH101 with AgustaWestland and Bell Helicopter, and Sikorsky, offering a version of its S-92, want to give the Air Force new data on life-cycle costs for their aircraft, but the service said it would not accept it.

The ruling could end up in court; Boeing is expected to appeal to the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. It also may spur top Air Force officials to adopt a proposal to scrap the CSAR-X competition entirely, re-combine it with a requirement for a missile-field support and VIP evacuation helicopter (now called the Common Vertical Lift Support Platform), and launch a new procurement effort. Those requirements originally were planned to be covered in a single procurement, but the service split them in 2005.

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