The MD 969 Combat Explorer (Photo by Dan Parsons)
NASHVILLE--While the Government Accountability Office has turned down MD Helicopters' protest of what the company called its exclusion from the U.S. Army Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) competition, MD Helicopters Chief Executive Lynn Tilton said that the company is not out of the FARA competition--by a long shot.
"I assure you that I'm not done yet," she said on Apr. 16 during an interview at the Army Aviation Association of America's annual conference.
In its decision, the GAO did not reject the protest on the substance of MD Helicopters' FARA bid but on the grounds that GAO does "not review the award of non-procurement instruments issued under an agency’s OTA [Other Transaction Agreements] authority."
At the Heli-Expo conference in Atlanta on March 5, Tilton announced that the company was developing the Swift, a winged variant of the 969, that would use MD's no-tail-rotor (NOTAR) technology to fly at up to 200 knots, squarely in the Army’s desired capability range. The aircraft would cruise at 160 knots and sprint at 180 knots — at the threshold speed requirement for FARA. MD said that it was working with Pratt & Whitney to increase the engine speed on the Swift.
In mid-March, Tilton received an email from "a low-level contract person in vertical lift, saying, 'Your demonstrator does not meet the capability,'" she said on Apr. 16.
"Perhaps, we didn't write the proposal with everything up front so someone would have to read the whole thing to understand [it]," Tilton said. "We said we're going to use this commercial  aircraft to develop the thrust and power of the NOTAR. Our demonstrator will be a NOTAR because I want to do what no one else has. We've contracted for a bigger fan, and we're changing the thruster. Right now, the air that goes through is narrow. We're going to shorten the vanes to get more air flow through."
"In the back of our proposal we have the whole Swift demonstrator," Tilton said. "I think they never read all the way."
If MD Helicopters is able to make its offer, the company will join Bell, an AVX/L3 team, Airbus and Sikorsky in the competition to build FARA, which the Army describes as a “knife fighter” helicopter that will fill the gap left by retiring the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior.
At the Army Aviation Association of America conference in Nashville, MD Helicopters also announced a custom, 7-shot Common Launch Tube System by Systima Technologies for the 969 military helicopter.
The Common Launch Tube System is able to deploy a range of guided munitions, sensors and small UAS/UAVs, and up to 7 lightweight AGM-176 Griffin missiles, MD Helicopters said.