GAO Rejects Sikorsky FLRAA Appeal

 - April 10, 2023, 8:43 AM
While it did not secure the FLRAA contract, Sikorsky continues to glean information from its Raider-X program. (Photo: Sikorsky)

Sikorsky continues to investigate new markets for its X2 compound coaxial helicopter technology following the loss of its appeal last week to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) of the Army’s Future Long Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) award to Bell. In February, Sikorsky unveiled plans to potentially offer an aircraft positioned between the Raider-X, its ongoing efforts to compete in the Army’s Future Attack and Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) program, and the Defiant-X design it was proposing for FLRAA in partnership with Boeing.

The Army awarded that contract to Bell based on its V-280 tiltrotor technology late last year. The FLRAA program seeks to produce new vertical lift aircraft to augment and eventually replace the H‑60 Black Hawk utility helicopter fleet, beginning in 2030. While the initial production contracts are estimated to have a value of $7.1 billion, the program could ultimately be worth north of $80 billion. 

Sikorsky quickly appealed the award on the grounds that the Army erred when it classified the Defiant-X as “unacceptable” under the “engineering design and development evaluation factor, architecture subfactor,"  which ultimately rendered it ineligible. Under those criteria, Sikorsky unsuccessfully argued that Bell’s proposal should have been rejected and further maintained that Defiant-X offered better value in terms of price and supportability. 

The GAO concluded, “The Army reasonably evaluated Sikorsky’s proposal as technically unacceptable because Sikorsky failed to provide the level of architectural detail required by the [request for proposal]. The  GAO also denied Sikorsky’s various allegations about the acceptability of Bell’s proposal, including the assertion that the agency’s evaluation violated the terms of the solicitation or applicable procurement law or regulation.  Finally, GAO dismissed Sikorsky’s additional arguments on the basis that Sikorsky was no longer an interested party to further challenge the procurement.”

Following the decision, Sikorsky issued the following statement: “We remain confident the Lockheed Martin Sikorsky and Boeing team submitted the most capable, affordable, and lowest-risk Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft solution. We will review the GAO’s decision and determine our next steps.”

But Sikorsky apparently was already looking past the protest as early as February, when it unveiled plans for its multi-role “International Twin” concept at Defense IQ’s international military helicopter conference in London and again at Helicopter Association International Heli-Expo in Atlanta in March.

“Obviously we continue to push forward with X2,” Paul Lemmo, Sikorsky CEO and  president, said at Heli-Expo. “We believe this delivers revolutionary capability in speed, range, maneuverability, and  survivability. It’s a great fit for the future attack and reconnaissance aircraft [FARA] program and we remain deeply involved in that competition.” Lemmo noted that Sikorsky continues to fly its experimental S-97 Raider technology demonstrator aircraft, gleaning data from it for the Raider-X. “We’re learning something new every time we fly,” Lemmo said.

Raider-X is 95 percent complete and is awaiting its ITEP engine from the Army in order to begin flight testing. 

Lemmo said the twin-engine “International Twin” is aimed at the international utility market and that Sikorsky was working collaboratively with Leonardo on a study involving the design for the Italian government to see how X2 “fits into their next-generation helicopter program.” Sikorsky is also “closely watching” the “next generation rotorcraft capability” requirement being developed by NATO. “We certainly think that X2 fits very well with a number of requirements they have and we will continue to work that as time moves on. There’s a lot going on with X2 even though we did not have a positive decision on the FLRAA program.”