Draft Solicitation Issued for Presidential Helicopter: The Navy has issued the draft request for proposals to industry for the new Presidential helicopter. The sea service wants a survivable and dependable platform, dubbed VXX, to replace the aging VH-3D and VH-60N helicopters that have shuttled the President for decades. The Pentagon canceled the original Presidential helicopter replacement program in 2009 after it experienced significant cost spikes and schedule delays. This is the second major go-around. The Navy intends to conduct a full and open competition for VXX, with the contract award notionally planned for mid 2014 and initial operations of the VXX fleet commencing in early 2020, according to the draft solicitation issued on Nov. 23. Navy officials said offerors are “highly encouraged to propose an existing, in-production helicopter platform,” since the service wants “to hold development to an absolute minimum” and “focus the program effort on integration of mature subsystems on a mature platform.” The Navy planned an industry day in early December to give prospective offerors the opportunity to ask questions on the program and offer their input.
Third Time, Same Charm: California Air National Guard rescuers from Moffett Federal Airfield last week (Dec News–Ed.) evacuated and treated a merchant sailor who had suffered head trauma aboard a cargo ship 300 miles off the Mexican coast. “This is the third successful long-range, over-water mission we have executed within the past nine months,” said 129th Rescue Wing Commander Col. Steven Butow. One of the wing’s HH-60 helicopters, accompanied by an MC-130P special-mission aircraft, departed Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, and reached the Marshall Islands-flagged vessel on Nov. 29, according to Moffett’s release. Pararescuemen winched down to the deck of the cargo ship and recovered the sailor, treating him on the two-hour return flight to Cabo San Lucas. There, the airmen loaded the patient on the MC-130P for transfer to San Diego for further medical treatment. “This was a complex rescue mission, but our airmen were up to the task,” said Butow.
Last Helo Standing?: A modified version of Sikorsky’s Black Hawk helicopter is emerging as the leading candidate—if not the sole option—to replace the Air Force’s aging HH-60G Pave Hawk fleet. This comes after several other vendors announced this week that they wouldn’t be submitting bids in the service’s Combat Rescue Helicopter contest. Boeing, EADS North America, and Northrop Grumman (teamed with AgustaWestland) all confirmed this week that they did not intend to compete for the rights to supply the new 112-airframe CRH fleet after reviewing the service’s request for proposals, according to press reports. Reuters, for example, reported on Dec. 12 that those companies viewed the RFP as favoring a vehicle like the Black Hawk and not rewarding the extra capabilities that their respective platforms might offer. Sikorsky has confirmed its intent to submit an offer; the Pave Hawk is a variant of the Black Hawk. The Air Force issued the CRH solicitation in October, calling for an “affordable” solution that leveraged “in-production air vehicles and training systems” integrated with “existing technologies.” Pentagon acquisition regulations prevent Air Force officials from openly discussing the state of the competition. Service spokesman Ed Gulick told the Daily Report on Dec. 13 that “the Air Force is committed to a fair, open, and transparent process” to select the CRH. “To ensure this occurs, we are prohibited from releasing information while in the request-for-proposal and selection processes,” he added. Gulick was able to say bids are due on Jan. 3, and the Air Force’s target date for awarding the CRH contract is next September. The notional date for initial operations of the new fleet is Fiscal 2018, he said. He also confirmed that the Pentagon acquisition executive has waived the need for competitive prototyping in the CRH program. By law, major defense acquisition programs are now required to have that unless there is a compelling reason to make an exception.