AgustaWestland declines to bid for US presidential helicopter

Washington DC
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Manufacturer AgustaWestland will not bid for the US VXX programme to replace the presidential helicopter fleet, despite winning a previous competition, says the company.

The Anglo-Italian company's derivative of the AW101 military transport helicopter won a 2005 contest to replace the aged Sikorsky VH-3s currently used for presidential transport, teamed with Lockheed Martin. The resulting VH-71 Kestrel was cancelled after skyrocketing costs led the procurement to become a political issue after the 2008 presidential election.

AgustaWestland

"After a comprehensive analysis of the final RFP [request for proposal], dated May 3, 2013, we determined that we were unable to compete effectively given the current requirements and the evaluation methodology defined in the RFP," says AgustaWestland, which had teamed with Northrop Grumman for the new requirement. "There are fundamental proposal evaluation issues that we believe inhibit our ability to submit a competitive offering, and that provide a significant advantage to our likely competitor. The decision to withdraw was most difficult, as we believe we have the best, most suitable aircraft for the president."

The company declined to specify which changes to the RFP resulted in the no-bid decision, but requirements in the 2013 document generally called for a smaller, less-capable helicopter than the previous round.

Companies were allowed a comment or objection period after the release of the draft RFP in November 2012. But no objections or protests have been filed with the US Navy or the Government Accountability Office. "If they've had any issues, certainly there's been plenty of opportunity for them to bring it up," the navy says.

Connecticut-based manufacturer Sikorsky appears set to be the only bidder for the contest with a variant of the S-92, which it company had unsuccessfully bid in the previous round. Sikorsky did not respond to immediate queries.

Rival bidders for the US Air Force's combat rescue helicopter requirement also opted against contesting that deal late last year, effectively leaving the way clear for a version of Sikorsky's MH-60 Black Hawk.