Boeing Must Rebid For Helicopter Deal

October 24th, 2007  
Team Infidel

Topic: Boeing Must Rebid For Helicopter Deal

Philadelphia Inquirer
October 24, 2007
Pg. 1
By Henry J. Holcomb, Inquirer Staff Writer
A year ago, the Air Force picked Boeing's newest Chinook to replace aging Black Hawks as the military's new search-and-rescue helicopter.
There was talk of adding 100 to 400 jobs and expanding the assembly line at the Ridley Township headquarters of the Boeing Co.'s Rotorcraft Division in suburban Philadelphia.
But now, challenged by Boeing rivals Lockheed Martin and Sikorsky - and the Government Accountability Office - the Air Force is restarting the competition. A draft of the new call for bids was expected to be issued by early this morning.
With orders for 144 helicopters at stake, the process is beginning to feel like a hot and ugly political campaign.
Lockheed Martin Corp., of Bethesda, Md., for example, says the Chinook is too big, that its twin rotors will blow people it is trying to rescue off their feet.
Not so, Chicago-based Boeing counters. It fired back questions about whether its rival, new to building helicopters, could deliver on time and handle the job. In the Air Force rating system, the Chinook got highest performance marks, it noted.
All three defense contractors have major operations in the Philadelphia region.
Rep. Joe Sestak (D., Pa.), a Chinook supporter whose district includes the Boeing plant, calls the unfolding saga a "strange process."
He's a retired three-star Navy admiral who has worked at high levels of the Pentagon procurement process. "Everybody is being allowed to resubmit their bids and change whatever they want to change," Sestak said in an interview.
And, Sestak said, after Boeing won last year, the losers were given extensive briefings on why they lost. But Boeing, as the winner, got no information on its rivals.
"The Air Force has addressed that," said Frans Jurgens, a senior Lockheed Martin spokesman. He then quickly e-mailed a transcript of a media discussion with Sue C. Payton, assistant secretary of the Air Force for procurement. It quoted her as saying: "We believe, and having talked to our contracting people and our lawyers, that the playing field will be leveled based on information given to all parties."
The process took another strange turn this week.
The Air Force attempt to level the playing field by giving Boeing details on its rivals, akin to what they got about Chinook, has been challenged by one of the bidders. People familiar with the process say field-leveling briefings scheduled for tomorrow have been canceled.
The estimated total costs of each entry, including maintenance and fuel over the life of the aircraft, were not that far apart: Boeing's HH-47 Chinook, $38.9 billion; Sikorsky H-92 Superhawk, $38.5 billion; and Lockheed Martin's US101, $35.9 billion.
If another company's bid is chosen to replace Sikorsky's Black Hawk, it would be a second big downdraft to Sikorsky, a unit of United Technologies Co.
The aviation pioneer earlier lost the competition for new presidential helicopters, dubbed Marine One when the president is aboard, to a Lockheed Martin team that includes AgustaWestland. Marine One has been a Sikorsky since Dwight Eisenhower was president. Sikorsky, based in Stratford, Conn., declined requests for interviews.
Lockheed Martin says the qualities that helped its US101 win the Marine One contest also make it good for search-and-rescue.
"It is light, quiet, and it has three engines. If you lose one, you can complete the mission," Lockheed Martin's Jurgens said. "The Chinook is loud and big. You know it's coming from a good ways away."
Lockheed Martin and Sikorsky want current search-and-rescue pilots to have more influence in the process.
Their entries have single main rotors and a vertical tail rotor akin to what these pilots now fly. In contrast, Boeing's Chinook has two big rotors, working in tandem and powered by a pair of jet engines. This design was invented in Philadelphia by aviation pioneer Frank Piasecki, who heads Piasecki Aircraft Co.
Pilots, like pickup truck drivers, have favorite brands. "But a man shouldn't say what the best is," Sestak said. Those decisions, he said, should be based on a process that measures cost and capability.
Chicago-based Boeing notes that its entry is a variant of the Army's special-operations helicopter, the Chinook CH-47G, which is equipped for in-flight refueling, has larger fuel tanks for longer range, and bears sophisticated electronic warfare countermeasures to fend off enemy planes and missiles.
Lockheed Martin says that's irrelevant.
"In special ops, you plan the mission, you choose your landing zone. You infiltrate and exfiltrate on your terms. Search-and-rescue is different. When there's a downed pilot, you land where he or she is, and the enemy is expecting you," Lockheed Martin's Jurgens said.
Sestak recalled rescues from his Navy years and declared the newest versions of the Chinook to be agile and able to carry equipment that aids rescues. Boeing's mock-up shows six stretchers and medical gear in the forward cabin. The rear can carry an all-terrain vehicle or a boat and has machine guns on both sides and the rear ramp.
In an August demonstration flight at Fort Campbell, Ky., Army pilots put the latest-generation Chinook through an hourlong series of maneuvers that included landing in tight spaces and planting its rear wheels on a ridge with the front in hover while troops exited on a ramp at the rear.
The search-and-rescue version will have the latest digital controls and an ability to detect and avoid utility wires, a threat in urban rescues, said Rick Lemaster, program manager for the search-and-rescue version.
With tandem rotors, the Chinook is less vulnerable to wind gusts when hovering in tight situations, he said.
The Air Force has said it hoped to complete the new bidding and make a decision next spring.
That was before the meetings set for tomorrow were canceled.
Boeing's reaction to this latest delay was swift. "We won fair and square," Joseph L. LeMarca, a retired Air Force officer who is Boeing Rotorcraft's communications director, said yesterday. "We believe we have the best aircraft and that the war-fighters need it. . . . We've got to get this process out of the hands of lawyers and back in the hands of acquisition folks."
October 25th, 2007  
The AF is going back to the Chinook? Isn't that a step backwards? I always liked the Lockheed US101.

Similar Topics
Taiwan Chooses Boeing Over Bell In US$1.5 Billion Helicopter Deal
Boeing Talks Jobs To Marshal Support For Refueling Tanker
Boeing Signs Deal To Rebuild Army Choppers
$1.15 Billion Defense Contract Goes To Boeing Operation Based In Mesa
Pettitte returns to Yankees in $16M deal