Contest Confirmed for New U.S. Air Force Helicopters

 - May 9, 2011, 5:00 AM
The U.S. Air Force is planning a "recapitalization" project for its aging fleet of HH-60 search-and-rescue helicopters.

The U.S. Air Force will invite bids for two major helicopter requirements, the service confirmed.

The “HH-60 Recapitalization” is the new name for the ill-fated combat search and rescue (CSAR-X) competition, which was abandoned in 2009, three years after the Boeing HH-47 Chinook was first declared the winner.

AgustaWestland said that it would offer a version of the AW101 designated HH-71 through its North America subsidiary. The company previously bid the AW101 in partnership with Lockheed Martin.

Sikorsky was the third contender for CSAR-X, with the HH-92.

The Air Force said that 54 of its 99 aging HH-60G search-and-rescue helicopters are currently undergoing structural modification. Despite this, an RFP for the “recapitalization” will not be issued until next year.

The second requirement is for the so-called common vertical-lift support platform (CVLSP), which would replace 62 UH-1N utility helicopters that serve ballistic missile sites and perform other duties. The Air Force is seeking a total of 93 CVLSP helicopters. An RFP will be issued early in the fall.

AgustaWestland said that it would offer the military version of the AW139, which is already manufactured at the company´s Philadelphia facility.

Citing urgent needs, senior Air Force officials have recently suggested that a sole-source contract to meet both requirements could be awarded to the team of Lockheed Martin and Sikorsky, who are bidding the UH-60M version of the Black Hawk. The Air Force will now have to wait for the new competitions before making a decision.

“As in the KC-X competition,” noted an Air Force official, “the ability of offerors to meet requirements at best value to the taxpayer will be invaluable.”