The Government Accountability Office (GAO) denied both Boeing's and Bombardier’s protests against the US Air Force’s acquisition strategy for the Lockheed EC-130H Compass Call cross-deck effort, the agency announced last week.

GAO released its decision 25 August but did not include additional information, noting the protest is covered by a protective order. The agency is negotiating a public release with the companies, a GAO official tells FlightGlobal.

The USAF is taking an alternative approach to the Compass Call recapitalisation, handing L-3 Communications the reins as the programme’s systems integrator. But Boeing and Bombardier alleged L-3 Communications’ lead on the cross-deck will hand the award to Gulfstream’s G550, which is teaming up with L-3 to compete for the USAF’s Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS) recapitalisation.

L-3’s foes not only argue the USAF is issuing an improper sole-source award, but violating terms laid out in the fiscal year 2017 National Defense Authorisation Act outlining the Compass Call rehosting programme.

Unlike the JSTARS recapitalisation, which will deliver a new set of aircraft and mission equipment, the USAF 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.

The announcement marks a second blow to Bombardier in its Compass Call pursuit. Last year, GAO denied Bombardier's protest alleging the USAF's acquisition was non-compliant, after the service pointed to Gulfstream’s G550 conformal airborne early warning type as the only suitable aircraft to host the Compass Call mission. 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.