The U.S. Air Force wants to replace its aging UH-1N helicopters on a sole-source contract with the Sikorsky division of Lockheed Martin Corp. (NYSE: LMT). Congress told the Air Force six years ago to forget that idea, but now the service has come back again and 12 members of the House of Representatives are urging the same reply again.
The UH-1N is a direct descendent of the Vietnam War-era “Huey.” The helicopter has not performed well in counter-terrorism drills, according to a report at Breaking Defense, and the Air Force wants to replace the UH-1N with the far more powerful — and expensive — Black Hawks. The replacement cost is estimated at $2.4 billion.
In their letter addressed to both the House Armed Services Committee Chairman and the ranking Democratic member, six committee members and six other Representatives say that congressional rejection of the sole-source contract in 2010 was the right thing to do then and rejection is the right thing to do now:
Now, six years later, the USAF is again contemplating a sole-source award, citing a new “sense of urgency.” Had the USAF held a competition when the requirement was first identified those aircraft would be operating today. It is our collective view that a terrible precedent would be set if services were allowed to justify sole-source acquisitions by citing a sense of urgency due in part to a failure to properly plan and execute against known requirements. The House Armed Services committee has been a champion for competition and it should continue to be.
Five of the letter’s signatories represent Pennsylvania, home of Lockheed’s Sikorsky division and AgustaWestland, a helicopter-maker owned by Italy’s Finmeccanica.
The Congress is currently working on the fiscal year 2017 National Defense Authorization Act and Lockheed would like to recover from a proposed Defense Department cutback in sales to the Army of its Black Hawk helicopters from 107 in fiscal 2016 to just 36 next year.