The Air Force will release a second request for proposal draft for the UH-1N Huey helicopter replacement program after feedback from possible bidders said that they couldn't meet the original threshold requirements, an Air Force official told Military.com.
This does "not lower the threshold," the official said Thursday, because the service "is holding firm and being very transparent of what the baseline is. We're just giving [defense industry companies] the opportunity to meet it."
The original RFP draft was issued in December; the second is anticipated by April, according to a release from the service.
The final RFP release -- originally expected this month -- has been pushed back to this summer.
The Air Force still plans to award the contract in fiscal 2018, with the first operational helicopter delivery in the fiscal 2020-2021 timeframe, the release said. The service hopes to buy 84 UH-1N replacement aircraft to protect its nuclear missile bases.
The Defense Department "will continue to take actions necessary to mitigate UH-1N capability shortfalls," the release said. "Our nation's nuclear deterrent remains safe, secure, effective, and ready."
The official said the service has already gone through "multiple rounds of talks" and received feedback through the FedBizOpps solicitation in recent months, but "industry came back and said that [they] couldn't even meet the threshold."
The official did not specify what requirements defense companies struggled with when constructing their proposal offers.
But the Air Force viewed the issue as, "We could receive no bids at all, or we can open up opportunity for integration" of already-manufactured or further enhanced capabilities -- described as Non Developmental Items, or NDI -- onto the aircraft, the official said. Meaning, something already in design or modified to be built into or crafted for the helicopter.
The original RFP draft specified the Huey should be able to carry nine combat-loaded troops, as well as weapons, with the ability to hit cruise speeds of at least 135 knots, Defense News reported at the time. It was also required to be able to fly at least three hours without refueling.
But some Air Force officials hinted that was not enough.
"The new helicopter will be able to carry more people than we can actually carry now," said Gen. Robin Rand, head of Air Force Global Strike Command. "I'm not going to tell you what the requirement is," he said at the Air Force Association's Air, Space and Cyber conference in September. "The new helicopter [will] carry more people on it than what we can carry on the UH-1N."