Aerospace makers were expected to compete aggressively for the lucrative contract, which would cover production and sustainment in the field.
“The service seems to want a UH-60, for reasons of commonality with the Army and Navy’s thousands of H-60s, and because the Black Hawk will handle all contingencies,” Richard Aboulafia, an aerospace analyst with the Virginia-headquartered Teal Group, said in an email. “ … Given the age of the UH-1 fleet, the service just wants to move forward in a straightforward and relatively protest-proof way.”
Boeing MH-139 helicopter flight 360-degree cockpit view.
Boeing and Leonardo brought the MH-139 to the Vectren Dayton Air Show last month, and local media representatives flew aboard the helicopter at Greene County Lewis A. Jackson Regional Airport.
“The (air) show’s close proximity to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base gives Air Force personnel and the public an opportunity to experience the aircraft up close, and learn why it is well-suited to replace the venerable UH-1N, known as the Huey helicopter,” Boeing spokesman Jerry Drelling said in an email last month.
The MH-139 is a militarized version based on a commercial design of Leonardo’s AW139 helicopter.
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“This is going to be the first time it’s offered to (the Department of Defense),” Rick Lemaster, Boeing’s director of global sales and marketing for vertical lift programs, said in an interview last month. “That’s one of the things that Boeing can bring to bear is our experience in taking a commercial derivative aircraft and be able to put all the logistics support in place.”
David Morgan, manager of Air Force business development at Sikorsky, said in an email the HH-60U is “a proven, tested and available aircraft to fully meet requirements for the Air Force’s crucial missile site and utility support missions.”
The Air Force has three HH-60U helicopters in its fleet today. The Defense Department has had about 3,000 H-60 helicopters of different variants flown by the Army, Navy and Air Force, according to the company.
In 2014, Sikorsky won an up to $7.9 billion contract to produce up to 112 HH-60W aircraft as the Air Force’s next combat search and rescue helicopter.