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US Government Accountability Office denies Sikorsky-Boeing FLRAA award protest

A computer-generated image of Sikorsky-Boeing's Defiant X. (Sikorsky-Boeing)

The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) has denied a Sikorsky-Boeing team's protest to overturn the US Army's Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) decision, which awarded to Bell Helicopter a USD7.1 billion contract to replace the Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk as the service's mainstay helicopter.

Sikorsky and Boeing submitted the team's Defiant X for the contract, featuring co-axial rotor blades and a pusher propeller, but the army in 2022 announced its preference for Bell's competing V-280 Valor. Anticipating a protest, Doug Bush – army assistant secretary for acquisition, logistics, and technology – said at the award announcement that the army had factored time for a GAO decision into the programme's schedule.

Sikorsky – owned by Lockheed Martin – quickly filed a protest with GAO on behalf of the team. “We remain confident the Lockheed Martin Sikorsky and Boeing team submitted the most capable, affordable, and lowest-risk Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft solution,” Lockheed said in a statement following the GAO's rebuff. “We will review the GAO's decision and determine our next steps.”

While details of the protest remain sealed, a statement by Kenneth E Patton, GAO's managing assistant general counsel for procurement law, said that Sikorsky had challenged the army's rating of the company's bid as ‘unacceptable ', arguing with the service's judgement of the company's engineering and development, product support, cost evaluation, and best-value decisions. Sikorsky argued that Bell's proposal should have been so rated.

“In denying the protest, GAO concluded that the army reasonably evaluated Sikorsky's proposal as technically unacceptable because Sikorsky failed to provide the level of architectural detail required by the [request for proposal],” Patton's statement continued.

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