The consortium of Sikorsky Aircraft and Boeing Defense is protesting against the U.S. Dept. of Defense’s December selection of the Bell Helicopter submission in the U.S. Army’s Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft contest. The FLRAA competition was staged to select a replacement design for the UH-60 (Black Hawk) helicopter, and could be worth billions of dollars over the life of the new program, depending on the number of aircraft to be built.
The U.S. Government Accountability Office – which received the protest at the end of December – has 100 days to respond to the protest.
The Team DEFIANT consortium of Sikorsky (a Lockheed Martin subsidiary) and Boeing stated it is protesting the Army’s selection “based on a thorough review of the information and feedback provided by the Army.”
It continued: “The data and discussions lead us to believe the proposals were not consistently evaluated to deliver the best value in the interest of the Army, our soldiers and American taxpayers. The critical importance of the FLRAA mission to the Army and our nation requires the most capable, affordable, and lowest-risk solution.”
Other members of the Team DEFIANT consortium include Honeywell Aerospace, contributing a turboshaft engine; ATI Forged Products, the supplier of gearbox components; Collins Aerospace, for its flight control and vehicle management computers, and aircraft seats; and Parker Aerospace for flight controls, and hydraulic pumps and modules.
The choice of Textron Inc.’s Bell Helicopter V-280 design favored a tiltrotor aircraft (similar to Bell’s V-22 Osprey) over the Sikorsky-Boeing DEFIANT-X proposal, which is a coaxial helicopter that would use two stack rotors spinning in opposite directions, providing more stability than traditional helicopters. They claimed that DEFIANT X would be “the fastest, most maneuverable and survivable assault helicopter in history.”
The tiltrotor design can take-off and land vertically like a helicopter, but rotate its propellers forward allowing it to fly at fixed-wing aircraft speeds. Textron said the “combination of proven tiltrotor technology coupled with innovative digital engineering and an open architecture offers the Army outstanding operational versatility for its vertical lift fleet.”
The December announcement is worth up to $1.3 billion to Textron Inc. and Bell Helicopter, with the initial obligation of $232 million through 2024. If the V-280 proceeds into full production, the Army estimate last month it could be worth $70 billion over future decades, depending upon production volumes as well as foreign military sales.