Raytheon has decided to officially protest the US Army and US Air Force decision on 13 June to award the Joint Cargo Aircraft (JCA) contract to the rival L-3 Communications/Alenia C-27J Spartan team.

Filing the protest with the Government Accountability Office starts a 100-day clock for the agency to deliver a recommendation to JCA’s joint programme office, which could range from doing nothing to re-starting the competition. Programme activity will remain on hold until the matter is resolved.

Raytheon declined to comment when asked to describe its reasons for submitting the protest filing to the GAO. The company is understood to have been surprised by the joint programme office’s decision despite a wide difference in price margin between the two bids.

L-3 Communications was not immediately available to comment.

The army and air force plan to buy up to 78 aircraft under the contract from fiscal 2007 to FY13, including an order for the first two aircraft this year.

However, the announcement process has been marred by conflicting reports about plans for funding and aircraft orders. The initial award cited a $2.04 billion figure to buy up to 78 aircraft, but L-3 Communications says the funding actually pays for only 55 aircraft. Meanwhile, the air force has disputed both sets of numbers, claiming that programme  plans call for buying 40 aircraft over the next five years with $1.5 billion.

The contract award to L-3 Communications and Alenia, with subcontractors Boeing and Rolls-Royce, marks a competitive breakthrough for the C-27J. The programme seeks to attract a large number of international partners to attract export orders.

Raytheon partnered with EADS Casa North America to offer the Casa C-295 turboprop airlifter to meet the US military’s requirement for an aircraft that can replace the Shorts C-23B Sherpa and fill a growing role for a small, intratheater airlifter.

The C-295 bid was based on offering a smaller and less expensive aircraft that could still meet the army and air force’s requirements for payload, speed and range.

It was not immediately clear whether Raytheon’s partner EADS is participating in the protest. Calls to EADS North America were not immediately answered.

Source: FlightGlobal.com