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Air Force won't reopen contract

Boeing beat out rivals to build helicopters. A report says the military was inconsistent in its requirements.

March 21, 2007|From the Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Air Force will not reopen the $15-billion contract awarded to Boeing Co. to build rescue helicopters despite a report from the auditing arm of Congress that said the military was inconsistent in its requirements.

Boeing, which plans to build the helicopters at its plant in Ridley Park, Pa., beat out Lockheed Martin Corp. and Sikorsky Aircraft in November for the contract to build 141 helicopters by 2019. The rescue aircraft will be used to recover downed pilots.

The Government Accountability Office recommended Feb. 26 that the Air Force reopen discussions with all competitors and request revised proposals.

Air Force Secretary Michael W. Wynne announced that the competition would not be reopened during questioning Tuesday at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.

The Air Force released a statement later in the day that said, "We're committed to working closely with the GAO to resolve any issues and get the Air Force a [search-and-rescue aircraft] as soon as possible."

Boeing pitched a modified version of its CH-47 Chinook helicopter. The helicopter from Bethesda, Md.-based Lockheed had a roomier cabin and three powerful engines and was cheaper than Boeing's; some industry and Wall Street analysts had predicted that it would get the contract.

Lockheed and Sikorsky Aircraft, a unit of United Technologies Corp., both filed protests over the contract award.

Greg Caires, a spokesman for Lockheed, said in a statement Tuesday that the company looked forward to learning more from the Air Force.

Paul Jackson, a spokesman for Stratford, Conn.-based Sikorsky, said, "We expect the Air Force to take whatever action is necessary to address the significant issues we raised and to complete a full and fair evaluation."

Joseph LaMarca Jr., a spokesman for Chicago-based Boeing, said that the company offered the best proposal and that the company was waiting for word from the Air Force on how to proceed.

The company has held off hiring about 200 engineers to work on the contract at the plant near Philadelphia.

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