Military

Sierra Nevada Bids Upgraded Black Hawk for US Air Force Huey Replacement

By Rich Abbott | July 23, 2018
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Sierra Nevada Sierra Force UH-60L

Sierra Nevada Sierra Force UH-60L. Photo courtesy of Sierra Nevada Corp.

Sierra Nevada Corp. submitted its final bid and proposal to replace the U.S. Air Force’s aging UH-1N Hueys with its upgraded UH-60 Sierra Force helicopters, the company said Monday.

Other bidders include Boeing, which is offering the MH139, based on the Leonardo AW139, and Sikorsky, which is bidding the HH-60U, a variant of the UH-60M Black Hawk. Both of these contenders are offering new aircraft.

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Sierra Nevada’s bid would involve buying divested UH-60A helicopters from the U.S. Army, then upgrading it to a UH-60L model. The company argued the A model has a lower price-per-unit to purchase, but after being converted to an L model, the Sierra Force is “essentially a new aircraft.”

The Air Force plans to buy 84 helicopters to replace the legacy Hueys. The rotorcraft are used to protect ICBM fields in Montana, North Dakota and Wyoming and provide emergency transport to support continuity-of-government operations in Washington, D.C.

A U.S. Defense Department reprogramming request noted this Huey replacement program is at a “high risk” for delays of two years because funding to award a contract expires at the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30. In fiscal year 2017, Congress approved an additional $86.8 million for the program, but that only covers two years. The Defense Department requested extended access to $83.4 million beyond September.

The contract award was originally planned for June, but a pre-award protest by Sikorsky to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) delayed it until September. The protest was ultimately dismissed last May, but the reprogramming request said this led to a 100-day delay that risked funding for the award.

Initial Huey replacement proposals were due September 2017 and final proposals were due last week.

Sierra Nevada highlighted the low price point of its Sierra Force bid in its final proposal.

“Our proposal is based on an open system where the government owns most of the intellectual property and will not be locked in with SNC for the 40-year program period. This translates into cost savings for the government over the course of the program. In short, this creates a best-value solution for the USAF and bolsters the nation’s economy,” Tim Owings, EVP of Sierra's integrated mission systems business area, said in a statement.

The company also said remanufacturing allows the company “to effectively recapitalize on existing government assets, significantly reducing production costs and returning money to the U.S. government, making the aircraft much more affordable.”

The UH-60L will features two new General Electric Aviation 7-701D engines and a metal airframe that Sierra Nevada argued offers a longer service life and lower maintenance costs than composite materials.

The production plan for the Sierra Force plans to buy the UH-60As through the Army’s Black Hawk Exchange Support Team (BEST) program in Huntsville, Alabama, then use A-to-L conversion by the Corpus Christi Army Depot in Texas. Upgrade, missionization and delivery activities will occur at the company’s Huntsville facility.

This was originally published at sister publication Defense Daily.

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