THE US NAVY'S Military Sealift Command (MSC) is planning to award a series of contracts involving use of commercially operated helicopters for vertical replenishment (VERTREP) of its warships.

The contract awards are designed to meet a projected shortfall of US Navy Boeing Helicopters CH-46 helicopters, which are now used for VERTREP. They would also follow award of two commercial-demonstration contracts to Kaman Aerospace.

In 1995, two K-MAX helicopters initially demonstrated their ability to re-supply warships in trials conducted off Norfolk, Virginia. This was followed in April with the MSC award to Kaman of a $3 million contract to prepare two K-MAX for follow-on at-sea cargo-movement trials.

It has exercised a contract option, worth $2.8 million, for 180 days of actual operations from the fast combat stores ship USNS Niagara Falls throughout the Western Pacific and Arabian Gulf regions.

The MSC now plans to mount a new competition which will require the winner to provide two aircraft, a minimum of three aircrews and sufficient maintenance and support.

It plans to award an initial seven-month contract with an option for another six months deploying from Norfolk. The VERTREP mission will begin in April 1997. The formal request for proposals (RFP) will be released this month with bids due a month later. The contract will be awarded in November.

Additional contracts over a three-year period will then be awarded, covering five consecutive at-sea deployments from Norfolk and Guam. The formal RFP is due out in August, with bids due in October. Contract award is set for December or January. Work will begin as early as October 1997.

Minimum requirements include external cargo lift of 2,045kg and 8h between scheduled maintenance. Operating weight cannot exceed 11,805kg. Extra capabilities desired by MSC include the ability to carry up to two pallets or 10 passengers internally. Kaman intends to bid for the additional VERTREP work.


Source: Flight International