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Boeing, Bombardier Lose Challenge to Air Force's Compass Call Decision

The Government Accountability Office has denied both Boeing Co. and Bombardier’s protests against Air Force plans to choose the next Compass Call plane.

In a closed decision posted on Aug. 25, the GAO simultaneously denied the requests, according to its website. The agency told FlightGlobal on Monday it will issue a public release of the protests after negotiating with the companies.

The program for a new Compass Call -- a “deny-from-the-sky” aircraft designed to thwart an adversary’s command-and-control communications -- has gained scrutiny the past few months after the Air Force said it plans to allow L3 Technologies to choose a new plane.

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The Air Force currently uses the EC-130H -- a modified C-130 made by Lockheed Martin Corp. -- as its jamming plane. Compass Call reached full operating capability in 1983.

Boeing and Bombardier argued that if the Air Force cedes authority to L3, they will be overlooked because the latter already has a business relationship with business jet-maker Gulfstream Aerospace Corp., which is part of General Dynamics Corp.

In June, the House Armed Services Committee added language to the fiscal 2018 National Defense Authorization Act that would block funding to the program until the Air Force’s acquisition process “complies with law,” according to a report from Defense News.

Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch, the service’s military deputy for the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Acquisition at the Pentagon, has defended the Air Force preference to primarily source the contract to L3, saying the move is cost-effective and timely.

“L3 has … played that role as the systems integrator as we have modernized these aircraft for the last 15 years,” Bunch told lawmakers at a House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces hearing May 25. “They are the ones that are very familiar with the mission equipment that is on there.”

L-3 Communications, now L3 Technologies, is the sole aircraft integration and depot maintenance contractor, while BAE Systems secures the mission equipment, according to the Air Force.

“That mission equipment is highly classified to be able to execute the electronic warfare mission that we ask that platform to do,” Bunch said at the time. “They have all the tooling, they have all the existing knowledge, and they have the modeling and all the information to do that work.”

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