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GAO denies Sikorsky-Boeing challenge to lucrative Army helicopter

The Governmental Accountability Office denied a protest from defense contractors Sikorsky and Boeing over the Army’s decision last year to award a lucrative helicopter contract to rival Bell Textron, Inc. 

With Thursday’s decision from the GAO, the Army and Bell Textron can go ahead with developing the Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) program under an initial contract worth more than $7 billion.

The Army picked Bell Textron’s submission, a V-280 Valor tiltrotor design, similar to the V-22 Osprey flown by the Marine Corps, over the SikorskyBoeing SB-1 Defiant. The losing proposal featured a pair of rotor blades stacked on top of each other.

The FLRAA program is meant to produce a new model of vertical-lift aircraft to augment and ultimately replace the Army’s fleet of aging UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters. When fully implemented, including with foreign sales, the program could be worth up to $70 billion, Army officials have said.

After awarding the contract to the Fort Worth-based Bell Textron, the Army insisted it followed a “deliberate and disciplined process” that ensured equitable treatment for both bidders. But Sikorsky challenged the decision, saying the proposals were not “consistently evaluated” to deliver the best value to the Army.

“In denying the protest, GAO concluded that the Army reasonably evaluated Sikorsky’s proposal as technically unacceptable,” the congressional watchdog agency said in a statement. “GAO also denied Sikorsky’s various allegations about the acceptability of Bell’s proposal.”

The GAO doesn’t take a position on the merits of the proposals from both companies, saying that is a matter left up to the Army. They said their role is solely to determine whether the service complied with procurement laws and regulations during the bid process.

In a joint statement from Lockheed-Martin Sikorsky and Boeing, the companies said they remain confident that their submission was “the most capable, affordable and lowest-risk Future Long Range Assault Aircraft solution.”

“We will review the GAO’s decision and determine our next steps,” they said.

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