Bidders on the U.S. Air Force UH-1N replacement program are awaiting a final contract award this month to replace the service's Huey fleet with 84 helicopters. While the acquisition contract could be worth up to $900 million, the Air Force forecasts $4.1 billion in total costs over the projected 30-year service life of the aircraft.
The contract process is structured as a "best value" competition.
Last year, Bell parent company Textron [TXT] informed Air Force officials that the company, the incumbent, would not submit an offering, and Textron officials said they believe Air Force requirements for the program are geared toward fielding a UH-60 Black Hawk variant.
The UH-1Ns entered into service in the 1970s and protectthe Minuteman II intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) and launch sites and provide emergency transportation to support Continuity of Government Operations missions in Washington, D.C. Air Force requirements indicate that the service is looking for a faster and quieter helicopter to handle the escort of convoys, missile field contingencies, the transportation of government officials and range support. The Air Force calls for each bird in the replacement fleet to be able to fly 480 hours per year.
Sierra Nevada Corp. is touting its proposed conversion of Army UH-60As to the L model. Sierra Nevada plans to buy decommissioned UH-60As through the Army's Blackhawk Exchange and Sales Transaction (BEST) Program, recondition the airframes to the L version and install new General Electric [GE] 701D engines at Corpus Christi Army Depot, then transport the aircraft to Huntsville, Alabama, for the installation of new glass cockpits.
The Sierra Nevada UH-60L "easily fits into the inventory" and has a per unit cost advantage in which the Air Force will only be paying for sustainment, training, and infrastructure, not a new aircraft, Jack Bailey, Sierra Nevada Corp.'s senior director of proposal management, said this week at the Air Force Association annual conference in National Harbor, Maryland.
Boeing [BA] and its subcontractor, Leonardo, are bidding the MH-139 helicopter based on Leonardo's commercial AW139 multi-mission helicopter. Boeing officials have said that 900 AW139s are in service around the world. The MH-139s will not have a depot requirement for the airframe, and the MH-139's maintainability would help the Air Force save $1 billion over the UH-1N replacement's life cycle, said Rick Lemaster, Boeing's director of global sales and marketing for military vertical-lift programs.
Sikorsky is bidding the HH-60U Black Hawk in its proposal to replace the Huey. The company said the Air Force is already using three HH-60Us for range support.
The HH-60Us are M models with four modifications: an external rescue hoist, a forward-looking infrared sensor, an internal auxiliary fuel tank and a fast rope insertion and extraction system (FRIES) bar, said David "Rum" Morgan, Sikorsky's director of U.S. government business development and a retired Army UH-60 pilot.
Sikorsky highlighted the HH-60U shares 85 percent commonality with the Air Force’s incoming fleet of HH-60W Combat Rescue Helicopters and will share the existing infrastructure supporting the service’s retiring fleet of HH-60G Pave Hawks.