The Government Accountability Office (GAO), an independent audit body, has denied a protest by Sikorsky against the US Army’s decision to select the Bell V-280 Valor tiltrotor aircraft in the FLRAA (Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft) bid.
The announcement of the winner was made in December 2022, but weeks later Sikorsky challenged the decision that disqualified a Defiant X coaxial rotor aircraft.
At the time, it was unclear what technical criteria had been used to name the V-280 the winner, but the GAO report revealed that the Army considered the Defiant X “unacceptable” due to engineering and development aspects.
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One of the program requirements is cruising speed, which is higher in the V-280 (340 mph) than in the Defiant X (265 mph).
Bell’s aircraft is a tiltrotor that takes advantage of the manufacturer’s experience with the V-22 Osprey model, in service with the US armed forces since the 1990s.
Sikorsky, on the other hand, bet on a new technology that unites coaxial rotors with a propeller propelling the tail. The company is in another competition with Bell, for a scout helicopter for the US Army, and also offers a similar concept.
“We remain confident the Lockheed Martin Sikorsky and Boeing team submitted the most capable, affordable and lowest-risk Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft solution. We will review the GAO’s decision and determine our next steps,” said the maker of the Defiant X.
If you do not accept the GAO’s decision, Sikorsky may take the case in federal court.
The FLRAA program is intended to replace the Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter, which currently has more than 2,000 aircraft.