The United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) denied the protest filed by Sikorsky against the award of the Future Long Range Assault Aircraft program to Bell.
On December 5, 2022, the US Army officially awarded Bell Textron with a $1.3 billion development contract for the V-280 Valor to replace the Black Hawk helicopter.
Later that month, Lockheed Martin’s Sikorsky demanded a review of the US Army’s Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) contract award to Bell by the GAO.
“The data and discussions lead us to believe the proposals were not consistently evaluated to deliver the best value in the interest of the Army, our Soldiers and American taxpayers,” Sikorsky said at the time.
The main point of contention was the difference in cost presented by each manufacturer. Sikorsky-Boeing claimed their Defiant X would cost $4.4 billion against Bell’s V-280 priced at over $8 billion, thus making the former proposal more cost-efficient.
Sikorsky’s design bid deemed unacceptable
However, according to the GAO, the Department of the Army found the Sikorsky-Boeing bid to be lacking transparency in its architecture.
“Sikorsky’s proposal provided something similar to a drawing of what the house looked like on the outside, a basic indication of the size and shape of the house,” the agency said when explaining its decision. “Such a picture did not provide the functional detail that the Army required showing what the space would look like on the inside.”
One of the missing criteria described in the initial Request for Proposal (RFP) was the need for a modular open systems approach (MOSA) that would allow parts of the platform to be added, removed, or modified “without significantly impacting the rest of the system.”
“Overall, the functional architecture provided by [Sikorsky] did not demonstrate an adequate approach to meet the requirements of the solicitation and deferred the work scope to the Weapon System Development Program where the functional architecture would be more fully defined,” the department concluded.
The GAO found no ground to dispute the agency’s conclusion and thus denied Sikorsky-Boeing’s protest.
What is the FLRAA program?
The FLRAA program is a US Army initiative that aims to replace over 2,000 Black Hawks with a new helicopter.
The first production aircraft is expected to be delivered by 2030, and the entire program contract may exceed $70 billion.
The selected platform, Bell’s V-280 Valor, is a tiltrotor aircraft that can carry up to 14 troops and four crew members. It has a top speed of 300 knots (550 kilometers per hour) and a range of 2,100 nautical miles.
The V-280 was chosen over the SB-1 Defiant helicopter, a compound helicopter made by Boeing and Sikorsky, which can transport four crew members and 12 combat-equipped troops and can reach speeds of over 250 knots (460 kilometers per hour).