USAF aims to complete CSAR-X deal by year-end

Washington DC
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Signing a contract for a next-generation, combat search and rescue (CSAR-X) helicopter by end-year has assumed a new significance now that the US Air Force wants to rebuild confidence in its own professionalism by successfully signing a major weapons contract that can survive protests by the losing party.

Only a month ago, industry officials were sceptical about the chances of a CSAR-X decision before January. But Michael Donley, acting secretary of the air force, believes the suspension of KC-X competitive activity frees acquisition staffing resources to complete the CSAR-X deal before a new administration takes office on 20 January.

Concluding the long-delayed CSAR-X deal could be a key confidence booster for the USAF's beleaguered acquisition workforce. "At my level, I'd like to have increased confidence that we're prepared," says Donley.

 
 © USAF

The US Government Accountability Office has already overturned two prior decisions on CSAR-X. Both USAF positions had favoured the Boeing HH-47 Chinook. The Lockheed Martin/AgustaWestland HH-71 and the Sikorsky HH-92 are Boeing's rivals for the potentially $15 billion contract to deliver 146 helicopters, including five prototypes.

Final proposal revisions are now due in mid-October. Industry officials expect a roughly six-week evaluation period followed by a decision around 10 December.

Lockheed Martin originally lost despite offering a $3 billion lifecycle cost advantage. The USAF, however, considered Boeing's bid to be a significantly lower risk than the HH-71 and the HH-92. Each of the competitors has since had another two years to refine their aircraft designs and cost proposals.