When All is Said and Done

The protest delay on the Air Force’s combat search and rescue replacement vehicle program will have cost the service about $1 billion, according to Maj. Gen. David “Scott” Gray, director of Global Reach Programs in the Air Force’s acquisition shop. The extent of the protest period on the program now looks like it will be at least two years. Speaking to reporters in the Pentagon Aug. 19, Gray said the Air Force will have this additional cost between Fiscal 2006 and Fiscal 2013 to deal with the programmatic impact of the delay. The $1 billion figure includes nearly $100 million in Fiscal 2009 to cover upgrades to the existing Pave Hawk rescue helicopter fleet that would not have been necessary had the CSAR-X program progressed unconstrained after the original contract award to Boeing in November 2006. However, successful legal protests by Lockheed Martin and Sikorsky caused the Air Force to reopen the competition to revised bids. The three companies turned in their revamped offers in late May, and Gray said the Air Force anticipates announcing the winner of the $15 billion contest for 141 new helicopters this fall. The Pave Hawks are showing their age. Already seven percent of the 101 Pave Hawk helicopters have exceeded their economic service life of 7,000 flight hours, according to Gray’s briefing charts. By 2015, projections are that 58 percent will have surpassed this number, and by 2020, 93 percent of the fleet. Gray said fielding the new helicopters remains the Air Force’s No. 2 acquisition priority, eclipsed only by getting new tanker aircraft on the ramp. The Air Force would like to have the first squadron of CSAR-X helicopters ready for use in the first quarter of Fiscal 2013 but requires that they be ready no later than the fourth quarter of Fiscal 2014.