Military, Products

Will USAF Tanker Fight Impact CSAR-X?

By James T. McKenna | March 11, 2008

What impact will the U.S. Air Force's selection of a new aerial tanker based on Airbus's A330 have on that service's long-delayed decision on a new combat search and rescue (CSAR) helicopter? The Feb. 29 choice of a team of Northrop Grumman and Airbus parent EADS sparked widespread protests in Congress, which quickly convened a hearing on the selection. Now Boeing has decided to protest the AF choice to the U.S. General Accountability Office. The manufacturer is familiar with GAO protest procedures, having seen its win in the CSAR-X competition overturned after protests by a Lockheed Martin-AgustaWestland-Bell Helicopter team and Sikorsky Aircraft. The Air Force has been in the hot seat over shady procurement practices in the past involving the tanker race; a top AF procurement landed in jail as a result. The scrutiny is sure to increase, which may make Air Force officials even more cautious in weighing the latest round of bidding to replace the service's aging Sikorsky HH-60G Pave Hawk CSAR helicopters. They have said they plan to award that contract by July; the GAO would have to rule on Boeing's tanker protest by mid-June. It remains to be seen whether criticism over the tanker award to a foreign-designed aircraft will affect the Air Force's deliberations on the CSAR-X contract. For related news

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