Sikorsky challenges US Army’s FLRAA contract award to Bell

This Bell V-280 Valor tiltrotor aircraft

Lockheed Martin’s Sikorsky demanded a review of the US Army’s Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) contract award to Bell by the US Government Accountability Office (GAO).

“Based on a thorough review of the information and feedback provided by the Army, Lockheed Martin Sikorsky, on behalf of Team DEFIANT, is challenging the FLRAA decision,” Sikorsky said in a statement. “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.”

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.

Such a protest from the manufacturers was expected by the US Army.

“We’ve anticipated that potentially happening and have accounted for that in our timelines,” Joseph Giunta, senior contracting official for Army Contracting Command-Redstone Arsenal, explained in a media briefing following the decision.

The GAO must render a decision by April 7, 2023, at the latest.

What is the FLRAA program?

The first production aircraft of the FLRAA program is slated to be delivered by 2030. It will eventually replace over 2,000 Black Hawks currently flown by the US Army. The total contract could exceed $70 billion.

The V-280 Valor is a tiltrotor aircraft capable of carrying up to 14 troops and four crew members onboard, with a top speed of around 300 knots (550 kilometers per hour) and a range of 2,100 nautical miles. The aircraft made its first flight in December 2017.

Bell’s proposed aircraft won over the SB-1 Defiant helicopter, a joint production between Boeing and Sikorsky.

The SB-1 is a compound helicopter with coaxial rotors, meaning that it has an auxiliary power system and a propeller at the rear for additional propulsion. It can reach speeds in excess of 250 knots (460 kilometers per hour) and transport a crew of four and 12 combat-equipped troops.

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