Last Helo Standing?

A modified version of Sikorsky’s Black Hawk helicopter is emerging as the leading candidate—if not the sole option—to replace the Air Force’s aging HH-60G Pave Hawk fleet. This comes after several other vendors announced this week that they wouldn’t be submitting bids in the service’s Combat Rescue Helicopter contest. Boeing, EADS North America, and Northrop Grumman (teamed with AgustaWestland) all confirmed this week that they did not intend to compete for the rights to supply the new 112-airframe CRH fleet after reviewing the service’s request for proposals, according to press reports. Reuters, for example, reported on Dec. 12 that those companies viewed the RFP as favoring a vehicle like the Black Hawk and not rewarding the extra capabilities that their respective platforms might offer. Sikorsky has confirmed its intent to submit an offer; the Pave Hawk is a variant of the Black Hawk. The Air Force issued the CRH solicitation in October, calling for an “affordable” solution that leveraged “in-production air vehicles and training systems” integrated with “existing technologies.” Pentagon acquisition regulations prevent Air Force officials from openly discussing the state of the competition. Service spokesman Ed Gulick told the Daily Report on Dec. 13 that “the Air Force is committed to a fair, open, and transparent process” to select the CRH. “To ensure this occurs, we are prohibited from releasing information while in the request-for-proposal and selection processes,” he added. Gulick was able to say bids are due on Jan. 3, and the Air Force’s target date for awarding the CRH contract is next September. The notional date for initial operations of the new fleet is Fiscal 2018, he said. He also confirmed that the Pentagon acquisition executive has waived the need for competitive prototyping in the CRH program. By law, major defense acquisition programs are now required to have that unless there is a compelling reason to make an exception.