Sikorsky Challenges US Army Contract Award
Stratford-based Sikorsky is formally challenging the U.S. Army’s choice of helicopter to succeed the company’s Black Hawk model.
The Lockheed Martin subsidiary filed a formal protest Dec. 28 requesting that the U.S. Government Accountability Office review the decision.
Pentagon officials selected Bell Textron’s V-280 Valor tilt-rotor aircraft for its next-generation assault aircraft earlier this month over the high-speed Defiant X prototype developed by Sikorsky in partnership with Boeing.
Sikorsky president Paul Lemmo said the company decided to challenge the contract award following a full briefing with U.S. Army officials.
“That decision was not made lightly,” Lemmo told reporters. “After all that information, it was evident to us that a protest was warranted.
“The data and the discussions lead us to believe that the proposals were not evaluated to deliver the best value to the Army, our soldiers, or the American taxpayers.”
The Army’s Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft program was one of two defense programs in which Sikorsky was a finalist.
Sikorsky’s Raider X prototype remains in contention for the Army’s Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft program, also in competition with Bell.
The FLRAA program is the country’s largest helicopter procurement award in four decades, worth an initial $1.3 billion and as much as $70 billion in the long-term.
The GAO has up to 100 days to review the contract award. If it finds the award process was flawed, it can make a non-binding recommendation.
Lemmo said the Defiant-X was the cost-effective choice as it uses similar infrastructure to the Black Hawk, while Bell’s V-280 Valor will likely require additional operational investments.
“We remain convinced that based on the selection criteria the Army laid out that Defiant X is the transformational aircraft that ensures the Army’s readiness … and deters rapidly advancing threats,” he said.
Supply Chain Impact
In a statement, Gov. Ned Lamont supported Sikorsky’s challenge, saying “a thorough evaluation of the process and each of the proposals is in the best interests of the military and the American taxpayers.”
CBIA president and CEO Chris DiPentima said “there’s a lot riding on this challenge, given the size of the contract and the hundreds of companies in Sikorsky’s Connecticut supply chain.”
“This is something Connecticut businesses are paying close attention to,” he said. “It seems Sikorsky has the best product for what the Army wanted.”
Lemmo reassured Sikorsky’s suppliers that regardless of the protest’s outcome, its current Black Hawk contracts meant the helicopter will remain in production at least through 2027.
“We are going to maintain those suppliers as we continue to build Black Hawk and we’ll see the outcome of this protest as it relates to FLRAA,” he said.
“This decision, whichever way it ends up going even after the protest, certainly will not define the future of Sikorsky.”
CH-53K Production Ramps Up
Sikorsky and its supply chain received good news earlier in the week, when the U.S. Navy authorized full rate production for Sikorsky’s CH-53K King Stallion heavy lift cargo helicopter.
That decision will increase CH-53K production to more than 20 helicopters annually in the coming years.
Sikorsky delivered the first CH-53K to the U.S. Marine Corps in July, with the contract calling for a total of 200 helicopters.
“The Navy’s decision is a very welcome one for Sikorsky and the 44 Connecticut companies in the CH-53K’s supply chain,” DiPentima said.
“It allows Sikorsky to procure long-lead items and critical materials and stabilize its domestic supply chain.”
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