In 2015 the US army announced that they would be ordering a further 16 UH-72A helicopters from Airbus, to add to the 423 already either delivered or on order.
However, Leonardo, who produce the A109 (a light twin helicopter that is able to satisfy a wide range of military requirements) challenged the purchase by filing a suit in the Court of Federal Claims, maintaining that the army had not solicited bids from other competitors and thus beginning the start of a saga that has dragged on for years.
Initially, the Court upheld the claims and backed Leonardo’s challenge, stating that the army had acted “capriciously” by awarding the contract on a sole-source basis. The Court gave the army six months to either issue a new Justification and Acquisition (J&A) document, re-compete the contract, or not proceed at all. Judge Susan Braden stated:
“If there is a genuine need for the 16 Light Utility Helicopters at issue, or perhaps a larger number, the most efficient way for the Army to proceed is to commence a competitive procurement.”
At the time the ruling was heralded as a victory for Leonardo, who lost out to Airbus (then known as EADS) on the original contract back in 2006 and which was initially valued at around $43 million.
Finally, on 23rd January 2018, a decision was reached by the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. They overturned the lower court’s decision, stating that they were satisfied the Army had justified their reasons for not seeking competitively sourced bids from other manufacturers.
This is great timing for Airbus, who is due to deliver the last of the original order UH-72’s on 28th February. A spokesperson for Airbus said:
“This ruling also removes the threat that Leonardo has held over the heads of our American workers in Mississippi – more than 40% of whom are U.S. military veterans – as it has tied up Army procurement long enough to nearly shut down our American production line.”
The ruling also comes only weeks after the army published a new ‘sources sought’ document outlining plans to purchase up to 35 Airbus Helicopters EC-145’s.