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More CSAR-X Delays

CSARX-47-web.jpg

Our friends at Aviation Week sent this story over to us for posting. My former colleague Mike Fabey has been covering this issue backwards and forwards. With all the tanker dancing going on, it's instructive to remember Boeing's dealing with another major headache, this time in the rotor world.

Under a Defense Department Inspector General (IG) investigation and more intense source selection scrutiny, the Air Force's $15 billion combat, search and rescue replacement helicopter (CSAR-X) program is further delaying its planned contract award.

The IG announced its investigation about a month ago into the way the Air Force changed a key performance parameter (KPP) change for deployability (Aerospace DAILY, Feb. 25).

Late last month the Air Force notified bidders Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Sikorsky that the sixth amendment to the request for proposals (RFP) - in essence, a new RFP - will be released some time in the spring, with an award to follow in October. The service explained the delay by saying it needed more time to evalute the very detailed proposals. A Defense Acquisition Board (DAB) meeting on the program is likely to take place a month or so before the downselect.

Last fall Air Force officials expressed the hope that the award would be made by the summer. The CSAR-X work already has been delayed more than a year - and it has been on the Air Force drawing board since the previous decade.

Initially, Boeing won the contract with its HH-47 Chinook variant. But Lockheed Martin and Sikorsky protested the award twice, with the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) sustaining both on the basis of how the Air Force calculated certain lifecycle costs for the proposed aircraft.

Now added in the mix is the IG investigation into the KPP change. As first reported by Aerospace DAILY, the Air Force changed a crucial bit of wording in the requirement, saying that a disassembled CSAR-X helicopter had to be only "flight" ready - instead of "mission" ready - within three hours. The Air Force said it vetted the change properly, but its own documents call that assertion into question.

Air Force officials told Congress that Lockheed Martin had asked for the change, but the service's own documents show the service had made the change prior to when it said Lockheed suggested a wording clarification. Lockheed said it never asked for any such change.

Boeing would have likely benefited most from such a wording change, analysts said. Boeing said it never requested the KPP change, but the company acknowledged a briefing with the Air Force in April 2005 - shortly before the service made the change - in which deployability times apparently were discussed.

Read more about the CSAR-X delays, F-22 stealth problems, and Euro drones from our friends at Aviation Week.

-- Christian

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