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Light Utility Helicopter (LUH)

On 23 February 2004, the United States Army announced the results of the Aviation Modernization Task Force, which included the termination of the Comanche Helicopter Program. As a result, the Army restructured aviation organizations to reflect current and anticipated needs. It had been determined that the intended mission of the replacement helicopter could best be satisfied through the acquisition of an aircraft that was already Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certified. The LUH program was the Army's solution to meet these requirements.

The Light Utility Helicopter requirement was based on a desire to provide organic general support at Corps and Division Levels. The primary mission for the LUH would be to provide aerial transport for logistical and administrative support. Considerations for the LUH include Service Life Extension Program (SLEP) of the UH-1 fleet, or the purchase/lease of an Aircraft already in production. A need existed for a LUH that could provide reliable administrative-type aerial support at reduced operating and support (O&S) costs.

The RFP issued by the Department of the Army under request for proposals No. W58RGZ05-05-R-0519 for Light Utility Helicopters (LUH) contemplated the purchase of an estimated 352 aircraft over a 10-year contract period, with an initial estimate of 16 aircraft to be purchased during the base year and additional aircraft to be purchased through subsequent option years. In addition to the aircraft, the RFP provided for the purchase of hardware and support, such as MEDEVAC B kits, hoist B kits, CLS, training, contractor field teams, engineering services, and other supporting hardware and services during the course of the contract. Five offerors responded to the RFP and were invited to make a limited presentation of their proposals to the agency in advance of the initial evaluation. After the presentations, the agency conducted an initial evaluation to determine if proposals met the go/no go criteria for FAA certification and the five mandatory technical requirements. The agency eliminated one offeror's proposal from the competitive range. For the four offerors that remained in the competitive range (including MDHI, AWI, and EADS), the agency allowed a "source selection performance demonstration" (SSPD) of each offeror's aircraft.

Based on the information provided to him and relying on the expertise of the factor leads, SSEB, SSAC, and aircraft "users," the SSA selected EADS for award.

With regard to MDHI's proposal, the SSA concurred that the proposed aircraft deserved only a marginal rating under the technical factor because it exceeded only two of the five required elements, exceeded threshold requirements for only four tradable elements, and did not meet threshold requirements for eight other tradable elements. The SSA also concurred that MDHI's proposal presented high risk under this factor because of "five incomplete FAA certifications and inadequate information to support proposed certification by first delivery," and because the proposal lacked information regarding radio certification. In addition, the SSA noted technical risk in MDHI's small cabin size, since it appeared that medical equipment stowage could interfere with litter loading. The SSA concurred with the marginal and high risk rating assessed to MDHI's proposal under the P/M factor, in part, because MDHI had not produced significant quantities of its aircraft since 2001.

With regard to EADS's and AWI's proposals, the SSA noted that both were "mature, proven manufacturers, offering aircraft currently in production and providing convincing production planning information supporting their ability to produce aircraft at the rates desired by the Government." The SSA found little distinction between the proposals under the P/M factor; both received good ratings.13 As he noted, both offerors proposed to transfer production from Europe to the United States and presented "viable plans for these transfers and evidence of comparable experience in establishing new production lines" and, thus, both proposals were rated low risk under the P/M factor.

MD Helicopters, Inc. (MDHI) and AgustaWestland, Inc. (AWI) protested the award of a contract to EADS North America Defense Company (EADS). Both AWI and MDHI raise numerous challenges to the evaluation conducted under each of the evaluation factors and to the source selection decision. MDHI asserts that its proposal was rated too low under each of the factors, and AWI asserts that EADS's proposal was rated too high or that AWI's proposal was not rated high enough in comparison to EADS's. Based on GAO's review of the extensive record provided in this case, GAO found that the agency's evaluation and source selection decision were reasonable.

First Unit Equipped goal was 30 October 2008. The LUH was intended to replace Vietnam era UH-1H and OH-58A/C aircraft. The LUH was a program to fill the niche missions in which the UH-60 capability was deemed to be less than optimal. The LUH cockpit would incorporate Force XXI digital battlefield capability. All nav/com avionics and selected flight instruments were expected to be replaced with Multifunctional Display (MFD). The LUH was required to be supportable and maintainable within the current aviation force structure. The LUH would require an increase in manpower when compared to the OH-58A/C but the expected the LUH manpower requirement was the same as the UH-1H. No increase in manpower was envisioned for Maintenance and Support personnel requirements.

The LUH would provide organic general aviation support at Corps and Division level. The primary mission for the LUH was to provide aerial transport of staff and liaison elements, air messenger service, air movement of supplies, maintenance support, and limited command and control. Through it's speed and agility, the LUH would meet time sensitive transport requirements for urgently needed documents, supplies/equipment, and/or limited number of forces that might not be otherwise available through an existing ground transportation network.

The Army predicted the need to retain 140 UH-1 and 125 OH-58A/C as a bridging strategy until a replacement LUH was identified. A buy of 255 LUH would be a solution for TDA MEDEVAC, CTC Support, Test Centers, State RAID missions and general administrative support allowing complete divestment of UH-1/OH-58A/C (190 LUH were currently programmed in POM 06-11). LUH with contractor maintenance could be a savings in sustainment dollars, reduce RC maintenance manpower, displace UH-60 mission aircraft back to TOE fleet.

As the Army transformed and the aviation fleet was necked-down to four aircraft types, the requirement for a Huey-sized light utility helicopter remained. The non-combat LUH or TDA (Table of Distribution & Allowance) missions required by ATEC and AMC and the Combined Training Centers such as NTC and JRTC would continue after the Army retired the Huey fleet. The Foreign Military Sales (FMS) training at Ft. Rucker would continue for EURONATO and South American helicopter pilot training. The DEA funded RAID (Reconnaissance And Interdiction Detachment) mission now performed by the National Guard with 125 OH-58A/C's would most-likely be continued after the Army retired the OH-58 series. Over and above these missions were the yet to be determined helicopter requirements for the Homeland Defense (HLD) mission.

The LUH, operating as a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certified rotorcraft, was required to provide for occupant protection in a crash through designs that protect aircraft crew and passengers. The Army put forward a request for information on industry's ability to meet the design standards for crashworthiness and crew survivability as defined by the Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR) Part 27 or Part 29, Sections 561, 562, and 785 as of 13 December 1989. The Army sought information on whether or not rotorcraft currently in production and commercially available met the FAA design standards listed. In addition, for those aircraft that did not meet one or more of these sections, the Army sought to understand to what level of crashworthiness the aircraft was certified. If the aircraft did not meet one or more of these sections, potential contractors were asked to provide information on the design standard they did meet as well as the costs and schedule associated with obtaining FAA certification.

The program objective was to acquire and field a LUH system that satisfied the requirements of the Capability Development Document (CDD) and the Capability Production Document (CPD) in support of the Army Aviation Transformation Objectives.

The Army as of 2004 utilized a mix of rotary wing aircraft to accomplish a wide range of administrative and logistical missions, as well as supporting the Homeland Security (HLS) role assigned to selective units of the Army National Guard (ARNG). These aircraft provided general support (GS) at various posts, camps, and stations both in CONUS and OCONUS and, in some HLS missions, were also deployed OCONUS. In most instances, the aircraft then assigned to these missions had reached their serviceable life and had to be replaced. In other cases, the aircraft used in these roles were much more capable than required for the role and consequently expensive to operate and maintain.

The LUH would provide an airlift capability that would be able to conduct light General Support (GS) missions and would replace aging and costly to operate rotary wing aircraft currently performing in this role.

The LUH would be acquired as a Commercial-Off-the-Shelf (COTS)/Non-Developmental Item (NDI) aircraft that was Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) Type Standard Certified and would be maintained to retain that certification throughout the life cycle. The aircraft would operate in permissive, non-hostile, non-combat environments to satisfy light, GS mission requirements of Tables of Organization and Equipment (TOE) and Tables of Distribution and Allowances (TDA) units within both active and reserve components (Army National Guard - ARNG).

General support TOE mission requirements include time-sensitive transport for urgently needed supplies, parts, equipment, documents, and/or personnel. The TDA light GS mission needs include observer/controller aircraft at Combat Training Centers (CTC), aircraft to provide force protection and installation security in sensitive areas (e.g., test sites, ranges, etc.), and chase/instrumentation aircraft for technical or operational testing. The aircraft utilized by the ARNG in the HLS role had to be deployable overseas and undertake the conduct of operations in a permissive environment wherein the host country maintains control of the airspace.

When the operational need arises, the LUH would facilitate the commander's ability to conduct disaster relief operations, civil search and rescue, augmentation of UH-60 MEDEVAC aircraft, counter drug operations, conduct of Homeland Security, and other mission requirements such as catastrophic emergencies and support to civilian agencies against internal threats or national emergencies if directed by the President.

The intended procurement would provide for engineering services, and allocates Contractor logistic support to the delivered systems to include training, procurement of parts support, and field and depot sustainment maintenance. The goal was to purchase a helicopter that could provide reliable and sustainable general and administrative support in at reduced acquisition and operating and support costs.

The Government would award one contract from this solicitation to the responsible Offeror whose proposal was determined to offer the best value to the Government, based upon the Government's evaluation of Cost, Technical, Producibility/Manufacturing, and Past Performance factors.

The solicitation would result in a contract to procure LUH systems, pilot training, maintainer training, fielding support, and contractor logistics support (CLS). The award of the basic contract was projected for FY05.

The Army did not plan to deploy LUHs outside the United States. Given the Army's decision to restructure its aviation force into modular aviation units of action, it was hard to understand how the Army intended to employ LUHs in formations that already included UH-60 Black Hawk, AH-64A Apache, and CH-47D Chinook helicopters. The Aviation Expeditionary Regiments of the six Army National Guard divisions which would contain the LUH would not have capabilities similar to those of the Aviation Brigades of the National Guard heavy divisions and the Active Force.

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Page last modified: 07-07-2011 02:34:01 ZULU