The Pentagon watchdogs over at the Project on Government Oversight got their hands on an interesting piece of paper that seems to show the Air Force ignored shortfalls in the version of the CH-47 submitted by Boeing for the controversial CSAR-X competition.
From the looks of the Government Accountability Office document, evaluators failed to weigh the Chinooks time-consuming reconfiguration after transport aboard a C-17 Globemaster III. Nick Schwellenbach at POGO writes a solid investigative report on what the document disclosure could mean.
According to the GAO, the Chinook came within a hair's width of not making its deployability requirement -- and even that is in question. In a flight demonstration in December 2005, it took the Boeing team 2 hours and 58 minutes to get the Chinook "flight ready," just two minutes shy of the 3 hour maximum threshold.
However, Boeing's build-up time did not include required maintenance and the installation of an item necessary for flight. Despite this Boeing "ultimately was found not deficient" in the key performance parameter of deployability. Was it really flight ready within 3 hours?
GAO explained that "the solicitation did not provide for a pass/fail flight demonstration that would be conclusive as to whether the proposed CSAR-X met the SRD requirements"--an explanation that seems to suck the meaning of the word "requirement."
Our friend Mike Goldfarb over at the Worldwide Standard put together a pretty good primer in the CSAR-X program and how the awarding of the contract to Boeing was called into question by GAO. But still missing is what exactly was on the Air Forces mind when they picked the huge and hugely capable CH-47 Chinook for what was supposed to be a medium-sized solution to the aging HH-60 Pave Hawk.
Though the Air Forces top officer was quoted before the decision as lukewarm to the Boeing helo, he recently threw his weight solidly behind the Chinook at least in the interest of getting something out there quickly.
The notion of a continued protest, the notion of continued lawyers and admin and messing with this is not right from the operational side when youre fighting a war, Moseley said April 24. So we need to get on with this program. This is not about lawyers, this is not about companies - this is about operational capability that will pick up Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors and Marines and coalition partners.
Moseley went on to almost prejudice the medium-weight competitors, laying out a scenario where ranges, payloads and altitudes meant only the 47 could accomplish the mission.
If you want to fly the distances were flying in Afghanistan and Iraq youve got to put a fuel cell in the back. If you put a fuel cell in the back, you got to take the PJ out, you cant put a litter in the back. The HH-60 is unsat in the world that were operating in, Moseley said.
At the end of the day this is about picking somebody up at 300 to 400 miles in an opposed area where people just shot you down. Thats why we need this helicopter.
Though the back-and-forth between the Air Force and GAO does delay the fielding of the CSAR-X platform, the contract protest should scrub the process to help eventually provide rescuers with truly the helicopter they were looking for.