By S.L. Fuller | January 4, 2018
The U.S. Army is looking to add new Airbus Helicopters EC-145s to its fleet and wonders if there are any vendors out there that could provide such machines.
A sources sought released Thursday outlined the Army’s interest in procuring up to 35 “new FAA certified EC-145 aircraft to supplement the Army's existing fleet of aircraft.”
This follows a 2014 effort to sole-source UH-72As as part of the Aviation Restructure Initiative. A lawsuit from what has since become Leonardo in response to a Justification and Acquisition (J&A) document derailed that procurement process. Airbus plans to respond to this new sources sought, which the manufacturer said was originally expected in December 2017, as soon as it can.
“Airbus Helicopters will certainly respond to the Army EC-145 sources sought, which is the first step in meeting a well-documented, longstanding requirement for Lakota helicopters that our customer has said is essential to meet its readiness needs,” Airbus said. “The Army realized a tremendous savings through its Aviation Restructure Initiative, in which the Lakota played an integral role. And they have reaped even more savings for taxpayers by training their aviators on modern Lakota helicopters that feature the same level of technology as their operational fleet aircraft and so eliminate costly transitional training steps. The Lakota has the lowest cost to buy, own and operate of any helicopter in the [U.S. Defense Department] inventory, and remains the most cost-effective solution for the many non-combat missions in which the Army, Navy and National Guard employ it.”
Originally, the Army had planned to use a portion of the some 400 Lakotas it already had under contract and purchase additional units, to fulfill training needs. That process was slowed due to the lawsuit. In August 2016, a U.S. court backed Leonardo's challenge to the Army's contract with Airbus for 16 more UH-72As. The outcome would require the Army to submit another J&A or hold a competition.
“Significant obstacles have been laid in the warfighters path during the Army’s past efforts to meet its requirements for more Lakotas, and those obstacles have in turn jeopardized the livelihoods of all the American workers who build the Lakota in Mississippi,” Airbus said. “That workforce — more than 40% of whom are U.S. military veterans — ended 2017 wondering if the New Year would bring them unemployment. A new contract for them would mean they can continue to build on their unbroken record of on-time, on-cost deliveries to the Army. As long as our customer has a need for Lakotas, our workers stand ready to build them.”
The sources sought encourages responses within 7 days.