AgustaWestland pulls out of U.S. presidential helicopter race
MILAN, July 31
MILAN, July 31 (Reuters) - Italian helicopter maker AgustaWestland has decided not to lodge a bid for a multibillion dollar contract to build a new fleet of U.S. presidential helicopters, saying requirements set for the deal favoured a competitor.
The U.S. Navy posted the final request for proposals (RFP) for a new Marine One helicopter in May, setting an Aug. 1 deadline, and saying it planned to pick a winning bidder in the third quarter of fiscal year 2014.
Industry officials cited by a report on Sunday in the New York Times said that only one company, Sikorsky Aircraft, a unit of United Technologies Corp, was likely to bid on the contract this week.
"There are fundamental proposal evaluation issues that we believe inhibit our ability to submit a competitive offering, and that provide a significant advantage to our likely competitor," AgustaWestland, a unit of state-controlled defence group Finmeccanica, said in a statement.
"The decision to withdraw was most difficult, as we believe we have the best, most suitable aircraft for the President."
AgustaWestland had teamed up with Northrop Grumman Corp to submit a possible bid based on the AW 101 helicopter.
Randy Belote, spokesman for Northrop Grumman Corp, confirmed that the company had decided not to bid for the programme, but declined to elaborate.
The U.S. Navy's posting in May called for construction of six developmental helicopters during the engineering design phase, followed by nine helicopters during a low-rate production phase and up to eight more in the following years.
The current presidential helicopters are VH-60N "Night Hawks" and VH-3D "Sea Kings," both built by Sikorsky.
The Navy's last attempt to buy a new presidential helicopter ended in 2009, when then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates canceled a program run by Lockheed Martin after requirement changes threatened to double the cost of the program to more than $13 billion.