The US Department of Defense (DoD) has awarded Boeing a $1.2 billion, 10-year contract to support variants of the Lockheed Martin C-130 operated by US Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC).

The Integrated Weapon System Support Programme (IWSSP) covers repair, maintenance, modification and upgrade of 87 special operations C-130s, including eight AC-130H Spectre and 13 AC-130U Spooky gunships, 14 MC-130E Combat TalonIs and 24 MC-130H Combat Talon IIs, and 28 MC-130P Combat Shadows.

Boeing was selected over competing bids from industry teams led by Lockheed Martin's Federal Systems unit and Raytheon Systems. The basic contract, with four annual options, is valued at $100 million. Maintenance services, logistics support and planned aircraft upgrades during the following five years will boost the contract's value to $1.2 billion.

Lockheed Martin officials expressed "surprise" when the company was notified by the USAF that Boeing was the "clear winner". One official says Boeing's bid exceeded Lockheed Martin's best and final offer. A protest will be considered after the losers are debriefed by the USAF, but it is doubtful that a challenge will be lodged with the US General Accounting Office.

The decision in favour of Boeing is the second setback in days to Lockheed Martin's endeavours to clinch significant USAF maintenance work.

In late September Boeing, allied with the USAF's Ogden Air Logistics Center in Utah, secured a $1.1 billion contract to undertake depot maintenance and modification work on Boeing KC-135s and Fairchild A-10s.

Management of the new contract will be handled at Boeing's recently established Special Operations Forces (SOF) Aerospace Support Centre, located in Fort Walton Beach, Florida.

About 200 Boeing workers support AFSOC projects there, but the workforce could double with award of the IWSSP contract, says Glenn Hess, a senior Boeing logistics support services manager.

He says that major aircraft maintenance and modification work will be conducted at established Boeing sites. Boeing is responsible for total system performance for all aircraft modifications and long-term sustainment of the AC-130U.

Aside from delivering the AC-130U gunship to AFSOC (through its acquisition of Rockwell International's defence unit), other Boeing special operations aircraft include the MH-47E Chinook and MH-6 helicopters. Fifty CV-22s, a version of the Bell Boeing Osprey tiltrotor aircraft tailored for SOF missions, will begin entering service after the turn of the century. Meanwhile, Boeing hopes to sell the USAF 15 C-17 Globemaster III transports for clandestine missions.

Source: Flight International