Schweizer Aircraft president Paul Schweizer has reacted angrily to the selection of the Bell Eagle Eye tiltrotor unmanned air vehicle for the US Coast Guard as part of the Northrop Grumman/Lockheed Martin consortium's Deepwater package. First deliveries against the $1 billion contract are due in 2006.

Schweizer says: "I think it's atrocious that the USCG goes out and procures a UAV without a fair and open competition."

Competition was provided by Northrop Grumman's RQ-8A FireScout, which is based on the Schweizer 333 turbine helicopter. The RQ-8A is looking for a lead customer following a US Navy decision to not fund the UAV beyond low rate initial production.

Lockheed Martin backed the Bell offering, while Northrop Grumman's primary Deepwater focus is shipbuilding, and as a result did not challenge the Eagle Eye selection.

The USN has invested $250 million in Fire Scout and Schweizer believes the cost of developing Eagle Eye will significantly exceed what has been promised. In response to criticism that Fire Scout cannot match Eagle Eye's 200kt (370km/h) forward speed, Schweizer says: "The USCG never defined a set of requirements. Lockheed Martin wrote a set of requirements and then answered them."

The production version of the Eagle Eye, the HV-911, is to be powered by the 480kW(650shp) Pratt &Whitney PW200-55. It will launch and recover autonomously from small ships, and is intended to loiter at 20,000ft (6,100m) for 4h. Bell says its single 8/9-scale Eagle Eye prototype has performed 55h of testing without mishap.

Source: Flight International