Sikorsky Aircraft, a Lockheed Martin company, said it filed a formal protest Wednesday asking the federal Accountability Office, or GAO, to review the U.S. Army’s decision on the Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft contract.
Sikorsky, the Stratford-based helicopter manufacturer, lost out earlier this month on a $1.3 billion contract with the U.S. Army — a blow for the state.
The Army was searching for the next generation of long-range helicopters, but did not choose Sikorsky as its new supplier. Instead, the Army signed Bell Textron, a Texas-based company, to produce the replacement for the Sikorsky-produced UH-60 Black Hawk.
The Army chose Bell’s V-280 aircraft over the DEFIANT-X developed by Boeing and Lockheed-Martin’s Sikorsky.
The V-280, a tiltrotor aircraft similar to the V-22 Osprey currently in use, can take off and land vertically like a helicopter, but rotate its propellers forward allowing it to fly like a fixed-wing aircraft with a cruise speed of 320 mph, according to Bell.
“Based on a thorough review of the information and feedback provided by the Army, Lockheed Martin Sikorsky, on behalf of Team DEFIANT, is challenging the FLRAA decision,” the Sikorsky statement said.
“The data and discussions lead us to believe the proposals were not consistently evaluated to deliver the best value in the interest of the Army, our Soldiers and American taxpayers,” the statement said. “The critical importance of the FLRAA mission to the Army and our nation requires the most capable, affordable and lowest-risk solution. We remain confident DEFIANT X is the transformational aircraft the Army requires to accomplish its complex missions today and well into the future.”
Messages and emails seeking comment were left with Bell Textron.
Lt. Col. Terence M. Kelley, director of Media Relations with U.S. Army Public Affairs, said, “The Army acknowledges Sikorsky’s decision to file for protest and will comply with GAO requirements. The Army will not comment further on this matter.”
Scott C. Donnelly, Textron’s chairman and chief executive officer, said in a statement when its aircraft was chosen by the Army earlier this month, “We are honored that the U.S. Army has selected the Bell V-280 Valor as its next-generation assault aircraft.”
“We intend to honor that trust by building a truly remarkable and transformational weapon system to meet the Army’s mission requirements. We are excited to play an important role in the future of Army Aviation,” he said.”
“This award builds on a decade of the V-280 Valor’s progress through design, manufacturing, and thorough testing to demonstrate that this aircraft will deliver on the FLRAA program requirements. Bell and its industry partners have systematically validated the V-280 aircraft and their modular open systems approach in collaboration with the Army,” the company’s statement said at the time of the award.
The Army initiated the FLRAA program in 2019 as part of its Future Vertical Lift initiative to replace a portion of its aging helicopter fleet.
Gov. Ned Lamont released a statement Wednesday in response to the Sikorsky announcement on its filing with the U.S. Government Accountability Office.
“I spoke this afternoon with Sikorsky President Paul Lemmo and I fully support the company’s decision to request an independent review regarding how the decision to award this contract was conducted,” Lamont said. “
“I remain confident that Sikorsky is the best and most capable company to deliver this next generation aircraft to the U.S. Army and that Connecticut’s exceptionally skilled workforce is the best trained in the country to manufacture this aircraft. A thorough evaluation of the process and each of the proposals is in the best interests of the military and the American taxpayers.”
Further, Senate Republican Leader Kevin Kelly, R-Stratford, also released a statement supporting Sikorsky’s, filing of a formal protest and request for a review of the U.S. Army’s decision on the Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft contract:
“This is a prudent decision by Sikorsky. We must ensure our nation has the best helicopters in the world to serve, defend, and protect,” Kelly said. “The Sikorsky team is made up of the most talented workforce and is a worldwide leader in innovation. It is critical that our government consider — and reconsider — all factors to determine the best path forward for our men and women serving worldwide in the U.S. Army.”'
In a statement released Thursday, Connecticut’s congressional delegation also weighed in on Sikorsky’s action.
U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3; U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, both D-Conn.; and U.S. Reps. John Larson, D-1, Joe Courtney, D-2, Jim Himes, D-4, and Jahana Hayes, D-5, together said in a statement: “The public, Members of Congress, and most importantly, the workers at Sikorsky, are entitled to a robust, fair, and clear process. Our National security and Connecticut jobs are on the line.
“Despite direct engagement with the Army, we as Members of Congress have not yet been able to get the answers that we need regarding how the Army came to their original decision on FLRAA. This is unacceptable,” the statement said. “We are hopeful that this protest action and the forthcoming process will shed light on the Army’s decision making, and that the highest level of fidelity is conducted throughout.”
“We will not relent in our shared mission to ensure that Stratford continues to build the helicopters of the future, and that good paying jobs stay in Connecticut.”