WASHINGTON Aug 2 The U.S. Air Force has delayed
the award of a contract valued at up to $6.8 billion for a new
combat search and rescue helicopter program until the first
quarter of fiscal year 2014, which begins Oct. 1, spokesman Ed
The expected winner is Sikorsky Aircraft, a unit of United
Technologies Corp, after all other potential bidders
dropped out of the competition last December.
Gulick said the award date had slipped from the fourth
quarter of fiscal 2013 due to several factors, including time
required to complete an independent cost estimate and the impact
of government furloughs.
He said an initial delay in the release of the terms of the
competition for 112 new helicopters also played a role, but
insisted it was not related to the number of bid submitted.
All but one of the contractors expected to bid for the work
dropped out last December, effectively ceding the competition to
Sikorsky and its key subcontractor, Lockheed Martin Corp
Boeing Co, Textron Inc's Bell Helicopter unit
, EADS and Northrop Grumman Corp teamed
with AgustaWestland, part of Italy's Finmeccanica SpA,
decided to skip the competition after concluding the bidding
rules were so narrowly framed that they effectively excluded all
but Sikorsky's Black Hawk helicopter from the competition.
The Air Force denies the competition was written to favor
Sikorsky, arguing that it wrote the terms of the competition to
be as clear as possible with potential bidders about what
capabilities the Air Force wanted and could afford.
Frans Jurgens, spokesman for Sikorsky, said the company had
received numerous queries from the Air Force during the
competition, and looked forward to a contract award.
"During the last several months, Sikorsky has interacted
with the Air Force to conduct an extensive evaluation of our CRH
proposal. We are ready to begin work building a proven,
cost-effective CRH-60 aircraft at the service's convenience," he
Dan Spoor, vice president of aviation systems for Lockheed
Martin's Mission Systems and Training business, said Lockheed
had spent a fair amount of time responding to queries from the
Air Force that are called "evaluation notices."
Asked if the Air Force had changed its process as a result
of the other bidders dropping out, Spoor said, "They had the
same rigorous process that they've done in the past."
The Air Force has been trying to replace its aging fleet of
Sikorsky HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopters for many years. In 2006, it
picked Boeing's H-47 Chinook helicopter, but the Pentagon
canceled the $15 billion contract in 2009 after multiple
protests by the losing bidders.
Defense analyst Loren Thompson, with the Lexington
Institute, said the Air Force was determined to make sure that
this contract award was airtight, after several embarrassing
acquisition problems in recent years.