Most Contractors Opt Out of Air Force Chopper Bids

December 11, 2012

Five big defense contractors on Tuesday withdrew from the U.S. Air Force's latest attempt to replace its aging fleet of HH-60 Pave Hawk rescue helicopters, leaving just Sikorsky Aircraft in line for a deal whose valued is capped at $6.84 billion. 

Northrop Grumman Corp, which was teamed with Italy's Finmeccanica SpA; Boeing Co; Textron's Bell Helicopter unit; and the U.S. unit of Europe's EADS all said they would not compete to build 112 new helicopters for the Air Force, raising questions about whether the contest can proceed as planned.

Industry executives, speaking on background, said the Air Force bidding rules were so narrowly framed that they effectively excluded their aircraft from the competition. They said the terms favored Sikorsky's Black Hawk helicopter and would not reward extra capability offered by bigger aircraft.

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