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Air-Launched Weapons

USAF cancels ‘bunker-buster’ contract with foreign-owned recipient

06 September 2018
An F-35A aircraft conducting a test release of a GBU-31 BLU-109 bomb during trials. The USAF is acquiring a successor to the 2,000 lb penetrator warhead with the BLU-137/B. Source: Lockheed Martin

The US Air Force (USAF) has cancelled one of two contracts recently awarded to manufacture BLU-137/B penetrator warheads because the recipient is foreign-owned and so ineligible, Jane’s has learnt.

Documents seen by Jane’s on 6 September show that the USAF has rescinded a USD419.6 million deal for 300 BLU-137/B ‘bunker buster’ bodies (with the potential for up to 3,500 bodies) awarded to Finkl & Sons Company on 27 June, as the Chicago-based steel manufacturer is owned by Swiss group Schmolz + Bickenbach.

On 30 August the USAF informed the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) that it was upholding a protest into the award to Finkl filed on 16 July by losing competitor Ellwood National Forge Company. While the protest highlighted a number of perceived errors in the contract award, it was specifically the point of the recipient being under foreign ownership, control, or influence (FOCI) that the service upheld.

“The Air Force … has determined that Finkl is a US company that is under FOCI. Therefore, Finkl is non-responsible and ineligible for award. For this reason, on 30 August 2018, the Air Force sent a notice of termination to Finkl,” the USAF said in its letter to the GAO. Schmolz + Bickenbach had not responded to a request by Jane’s for comment by the time of publication.

While Finkl’s production contract has been cancelled, a separate award remains in place for US-owned Superior Forge and Steel Corporation – that was granted at the same time – for the same quantities and to the same approximate value. Rather than award production entirely to Superior Forge and Steel Corporation, the USAF is now likely to re-run the cancelled portion of the award.

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