The US Air Force's long-running quest to replace its fleet of ageing Sikorsky HH-60G Pave Hawk combat search and rescue (CSAR) helicopters has moved forward, after the service issued a request for proposals for the contest.
Published on the US Government's Federal Business Opportunities website on 19 October, the RFP covers the acquisition of as many as 112 rotorcraft in a deal worth up to $6.8 billion.
Bidders must submit their proposals by early January next year, with the USAF planning to award the contract by the end of September 2013.
If all options are exercised, the deal could span a total of 14 years and "will include the development, integration, production, and initial sustainment of the entire [Combat Rescue Helicopter] system" including training, says the RFP.
The document specifies a helicopter offering a combat radius of 225nm (416km), able to transport 680kg (1,500lb) of team members and equipment and including space for up to four stretchers.
The USAF's schedule calls for an initial four developmental aircraft to be delivered in 2016, with a further five units in an initial operational and evaluation configuration to arrive in 2018. Low-rate initial production will add a further 18 helicopters, with the remaining 85 units to be procured during full-rate production, assuming all options are exercised.
So far only AgustaWestland has confirmed its participation. It will team with Northrop Grumman to offer its AW101 for the competition.
Under the contest's previous guise, CSAR-X, the USAF awarded a deal to Boeing in 2006, for the HH-47 Chinook. This, and a second evaluation, were subsequently overturned by the US Government Accountability Office, before a third round of procurement was cancelled by the Obama administration.