Following a loss in court on a related case and a scathing rebuke from a competing aircraft manufacturer, Leonardo Helicopters has decided to withdraw a lawsuit challenging the Army’s purchase of Airbus UH-72 Lakota helicopters in fiscal 2017.
“In light of the Appellate Court ruling, Leonardo Helicopters has decided to discontinue any further legal action regarding the sole-source award of trainer helicopters to the U.S. Army,” a company spokesman told sister publication Defense Daily in an email. “We nonetheless continue to believe that strong competition for government programs is in the best interests of our warfighters, American taxpayers and the U.S. defense industrial base. Of course, we are disappointed that there was no competition in this case.”
On Jan. 22, Leonardo filed a lawsuit to stop the Army from buying new Lakotas authorized in the fiscal 2017 Army budget. The new lawsuit is almost identical to one filed against a contract for 16 of the aircraft authorized in fiscal 2016.
Two days after the latest filing, on Jan. 24, a federal appeals court threw out the 2016 suit but that did not immediately dissuade Leonardo from pursuing the new lawsuit in federal court, which effectively placed a halt on production and delivery of the aircraft the Army planned to buy and Congress authorized in fiscal 2017.
Leonardo met with court officials on Jan. 26 to discuss dropping the suit, but decided to continue with the new lawsuit.
As part of its Aviation Restructure Initiative, the Army chose the UH-72 as its primary training helicopter to replace the Bell TH-67 Creek. Leonardo sued on the basis that the Army did not open the program to competition, although the 2016 purchase was a follow-on contract to a 2006 deal for which Leonardo competed and lost.