Bombardier has filed its second protest against the US Air Force’s acquisition strategy for the EC-130H Compass Call cross-deck effort, following Boeing’s protest.
Boeing’s 19 May protest alleged L-3 Communications’ lead on the cross-deck will hand the award to Gulfstream’s G550. Bombardier filed its protest 26 May, according to the Government Accountability Office.
The air force plans to transition mission equipment from its existing fleet of EC-130H aircraft, which serves as a communications eavesdropper for the service. Last year, the USAF's budget outlined plans to replace one airframe a year over a ten-year period to re-host existing equipment.
Following a 7 June Congressional hearing, the service’s military deputy for the assistant secretary of the air force for acquisition told reporters the air force plans to stick with L-3 despite the two protests.
“We still remain committed,” Lt Gen Arnold Bunch says. “We are still planning because of the experience of L-3...having been the contractor that’s been modifying the aircraft for the last 15 years, knowing all the current mission equipment, the security associated with the mission, we still believe L-3 as a systems integrator is the right approach to get the capability to the field as efficiently and effectively as we can.”
This marks the second protest Bombardier has filed over the EC-130H programme. Last year, the air force determined Gulfstream’s G550 conformal airborne early warning type was the only suitable aircraft to host the Compass Call mission. Bombardier argued the USAF’s decision and process for Compass Call was non-compliant with US government procurement rules. But GAO dismissed the protest as premature this March, noting that there is consideration of a sole source contract but that the USAF has not yet issued a solicitation. GAO did note that Bombardier would have another opportunity to raise concerns with the procurement, Bombardier said at the time.
The USAF later tweaked the acquisition strategy on Compass Call so the programme would not award the aircraft to Gulfstream, but rather deem L-3 the systems integrator. Boeing raised concerns in its recent protest that the strategy still favored Gulfstream which is partnering with L-3 on its JSTARS recapitalisation bid.