Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The USAF is toying with the possibility of sole-sourcing US Army UH-60M Blackhawk's from Lockheed Martin to replace their aging UH-1N Huey's, at a cost of $2.4 BILLION dollars. In order to sole-source a contact like this, the USAF has to come up with a convincing argument to Congress, as to why they either don't have the time to spare, and/or why there are no other viable solutions, to the sole-source contract.


Lawmakers want to stop USAF sole source Lockheed Martin contract

Currently, the USAF has 59 UH-1N's in active duty inventory, and per the USAF website, the mission of the UH-1N in Air Force trim is as below:

The UH-1N is a light-lift utility helicopter used to support various missions. The primary missions include: airlift of emergency security forces, security and surveillance of off-base nuclear weapons convoys, and distinguished visitor airlift. Other uses include: disaster response operations, search and rescue, medical evacuation, airborne cable inspections, support to aircrew survival school, aerial testing, routine missile site support and transport.


Is the UH-60M overkill for this mission in the USAF? First off, the UH-60M is a medium lift helicopter by all means, so right off the bat the USAF needs to compel it's audience to believe it needs the additional capability. Second, the FY15 fly away costs for a UH-60M are about $16.96m, so at 60 airframes, that is only $1.017 billion. Now I'm sure there is a whole package that includes spares and logistics involved in the deal, (and maybe a few palms being greased,) but how again does the USAF get to $2.4 billion to sole-source a platform already in full rate, active production for the US Army?

US Army UH-60M


The logical choice of course, would be the UH-72A Lakota that the US Army originally began to procure for domestic use in large part to make up for the numbers of more expensive UH-60's serving overseas in the War on Terror. There is nothing that the UH-1N can do that the UH-72A cannot do and do a better job of. If the USAF needs a comparable replacement helicopter for the UH-1N that is proven capable and already in production for the US military, the Lakota price for performance cannot be beat. For half the purchase price of a UH-60M Blackhawk and anywhere from 30% to 50% less costly to operate than a UH-60M Blackhawk, and the UH-72 seems like the ideal candidate.

The UH-72 cruises about 15 knots faster than the UH-1N, can still carry up to 8 passengers compared to the 11 of the UH-60M, and costs almost half the price of the UH-60M in FY15 dollars, $8.56m each versus $16.96m each.

At the very least, the USAF needs to define a set of requirements and solicit bids to match capability for the dollar, but the UH-72A would still be the most logical aircraft to replace the UH-1N. If anything, I could see the USAF sole sourcing the UH-72A on the grounds that there is nothing near it in terms of price and capability. 

US Army UH-72A Lakota


No comments:

Post a Comment