“There is no good news,” Rep. Mike Rogers of Alabama told reporters on Capitol Hill on Wednesday. “The Air Force is still not moving forward. They’re talking about sending another request for proposal. It’s just such a disappointment.”
The Air Force is planning the second RFP draft after feedback from possible bidders that they couldn’t meet the original threshold requirements, an Air Force official told Military.com last month. The service still plans to award the contract in fiscal 2018, with the first operational helicopter delivery in the fiscal 2020-2021 timeframe.
While the Air Force said it will not “lower the threshold” of base requirements, the official would not specify what requirements defense companies struggled with when constructing their proposal offers.
“The UH-1N fleet supports five commands and numerous missions, including [Intercontinental Ballistic Missile] security support and [National Capital Region] continuity of government/operations, operational support airlift, aircrew training/support, and test support,” Air Force spokesman Capt. Michael Hertzog said Feb. 17.
“These are nuclear weapons that have to be safeguarded,” said Rogers, who sits on the House Armed Services Committee.
He is concerned about having outdated aircraft — some of which entered the Air Force’s inventory in 1970 — protecting nuclear missile bases.
Last year, 17 lawmakers urged the House Armed Services Committee to include language in the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act that would mandate the Air Force purchase UH-60 Black Hawks from the Army to leverage the gap in capability, according to The Washington Post.
Responding to that measure, Rogers said he is still pressing the service to use the Army’s Black Hawks, “but the Air Force is just certain they’re going to be sued” if there’s no competition “so they’re just not going to do anything” in the meantime.
“I just think it’s irresponsible,” he said.
Boeing Co. last week announced it will offer an MH-139 helicopter variant, based on Leonardo-Finmeccanica’s AgustaWestland AW139, for the RFP, anticipated in April.
Boeing’s offer is a 15-seat, medium-sized multi-role helicopter with twin engines. More than 250 of the aircraft have been assembled and delivered from its Philadelphia plant, the company said.
Boeing will be the second defense aerospace company to enter the service’s UH-1N replacement bid. Sikorsky — previously owned by United Technologies Corp. before Lockheed acquired the helicopter company in 2015 — said Feb. 28 it will offer a semi-modified HH-60U as the new Huey.
The Air Force already has three HH-60U Black Hawks in its inventory, which pilots and special mission aviators began flying in 2011.
The service hopes to buy 84 UH-1N replacement aircraft to protect its nuclear missile bases.