The U.S. Air Force is sticking with its tangled effort to procure a new combat search and rescue helicopter rather than expand the program or rewrite requirements to avoid further contractor protests, which have hobbled the acquisition to date. The service now hopes to select a winner in early 2008. Its first contract award to Boeing last November was thrown out.
"We probably are not going to change the Air Force requirements at all because that would be too wide open," Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne said during a September meeting of the Air Force Assn. in Washington.
Wynne said the Air Force should issue an amended request for proposals by the end of last month to satisfy an objection to the previous contract award that was upheld by the U.S. Government Accountability Office. [Editor's Note: The service issued a draft request for proposals Oct. 23, with responses from industry due Oct. 30.] Sue Payton, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, said it would take until mid-2008 or so to evaluate new bids and award a new contract.
"We don’t need to give them very much time, in my opinion, but we’ll see what the procurement authorities come down with," Wynne said.
Gen. Michael Moseley, Air Force chief of staff, told the gathering that the so-called CSAR-X remains the service’s No. 2 procurement priority. Moseley said sticking to the original schedule to get the new helicopter into service by 2012 is "very important to us."
If the procurement schedule should slip much beyond that, the Air Force will have to "spend lots of money on service life extensions of the HH-60s, which is not the aircraft we need," Moseley said. — Richard Whittle