Sikorsky could win a contract early next year to build the US Air Force’s next-generation combat rescue helicopter (CRH) — but only if the service receives adequate budget funding in the coming years.
According to the federal procurement website FedBizOpps.gov, the Air Force received only one proposal, from Sikorsky, to build the aircraft, which would replace the Air Force’s ageing fleet of HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters, also made by Sikorsky.
Sikorsky’s submitted an “acceptable technical solution” and the “USAF is laying the groundwork to award the CRH contract in the second quarter of fiscal year 2014,” says the Air Force’s 22 November web posting.
Sikorsky's proposed combat rescue helicopter (CRH). Sikorsky
The second quarter of the US government’s 2014 fiscal year is from January to March of that year.
However, the Air Force notes the award is contingent on future years funding, an uncertainty in an era of budget austerity and potential across-the-board budget cuts known as the sequester.
“The USAF intends to award a contract based upon budget availability,” says the service’s posting on FedBizOpps.gov. “The award is contingent on the outcome of the president's budget review process, where CRH would need to be funded across the future year's defence program.”
The posting comes amid reports that the Air Force created two separate fiscal-year 2015 budgets — one that assumes sequestration and one that does not.
The sequestration budget does not provide for CRH funding, according to reports.
Sikorsky, which is partnering with Lockheed Martin on the project, has not released specifications of its proposed helicopter, called CRH-60, but tells Flightglobal the aircraft will be a modified version of its H-60M Black Hawk helicopter.
The company adds it is “encouraged that this vital program appears to be moving forward with a contract award in 2014, subject to budgetary decisions, for a new combat rescue helicopter.”
“These aircraft will replace the worn and stressed HH-60G Pave Hawk aircraft that have saved thousands of our military personnel’s lives,” the company adds.
The Air Force called for requests for proposals to build CRH helicopters in October 2012. The project is capped at $6.8 billion.
The Air Force wants 112 new aircraft, plus training systems and product support, during a 14 year period.
The service currently has 99 Pave Hawks, including 17 operated by the Air National Guard and 16 operated by the Air Force Reserve, according to the air force’s website.
The CRH programme follows the Air Force’s combat search and rescue replacement vehicle programme. Boeing won that contract, worth up to $15 billion, in 2006, but the programme was cancelled in 2009.