This article first appeared in Aviation Week.com.
The U.S. Air Force is still confident a design will be selected as planned this fall for the armed service's controversial rescue helicopter replacement program, even though forthcoming draft findings of a Defense Department inspector general (IG) investigation could slow the process of announcing a winner.
Maj. Gen. Scott Gray, USAF director of acquisition for global reach programs, said he doesn't expect the IG's findings to impact the schedule of the contract award announcement. "We've heard nothing from the DOD IG that causes us concern," he told Pentagon reporters.
Service officials are folding lessons from Government Accountability Office's findings in the beleaguered aerial refueling tanker contest into future acquisition programs. In the case of CSAR-X, "we feel pretty confident that there was nothing...that needed to be fixed," Gray said.
The new aircraft are needed to replace aging HH-60G Pave Hawks now in service. Gray says that as of 2006, 7 percent of the Pave Hawk fleet of 101 helicopters was past its service life of 7,000 hr. He projects that in 2015, 58 percent will exceed their service life.