Airbus Helicopters lodged a protest last week with the Government Accountability Office (GAO) against the Navy choosing Leonardo for the Navy’s new helicopter training aircraft.

Last month, Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) awarded Leonardo’s AugustaWestland a $176 million control to produce and deliver 32 TH-32A Advanced Helicopter Training Systems. The Navy expects to eventually buy up to 130 trainers (Defense Daily, Jan. 13).

Leonardo’s TH-119 training helicopter at the Navy’s League’s 2019 Sea-Air-Space conference in National Harbor, Maryland. (Photo: Dan Parsons)

Navy spokeswoman Connie Hempel confirmed to Defense Daily that the service has issued a stop work order on the new trainers while the protest is ongoing.

Leonardo offered the single-engine TH-119, derived from its AW109 Trekker, while Airbus offered the twin-engine H135 and Bell [TXT] offered the 407GXi single-engine, a descendant of the TH-57 Sea Ranger legacy training helicopter getting replaced.

This protest comes amid a quickened Navy timeline for new trainers because it plans to start divesting the existing TH-57 fleet by 2023. The legacy trainers started operations in the early 1980s.

According to the GAO docket, Airbus Helicopters filed the protest on Feb. 3 and the office expects to make a decision due May 13.