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Posted: Fri Mar 24, 2006 6:57 pm Post subject: CSAR-X Competition
DoD reviews Air Force helicopter; said not to intervene
By Rebecca Christie
Last Update: 5:16 PM ET Mar 23, 2006
WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) -- The Defense Department on Thursday reviewed Air Force plans to buy new rescue helicopters, but analysts say it declined to intervene heavily.
The Air Force wants to buy about 140 new helicopters in its CSAR-X program, as it calls its quest for a next-generation combat search and rescue helicopter. Last year, the Pentagon put the program on hold during budget deliberations and the quadrennial defense review.
This week, the program went through a new process known as an "investment review," to see how the new aircraft fits with existing Pentagon aircraft fleets. The Pentagon confirmed that the meeting took place Thursday as planned, but declined to comment further.
Analysts said the review could have pitted Defense Department planners against the Air Force, with a major impact on the coming competition. Instead, however, it left the Air Force's plans intact, said Loren Thompson, a well-connected Washington defense analyst.
"The program is now back on track, there's not going to be a big holdup," Thompson said. He said a different outcome could have thrown a big wrench in the Pentagon's purchase protocols, since it is outside the normal requirements review process.
If the program proceeds as expected, the Pentagon will review the final purchase plans in a Defense Acquisition Board review this summer. That will pave the way for a competition likely to be dominated by three candidate aircraft.
Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT) is considered the front-runner with its US-101 helicopter, which won a high-profile contest to build the next Marine One presidential transport. Other contenders include Sikorksy Aircraft Corp., a unit of United Technologies Corp. (UTX) that makes the S-92, and the Boeing Co. (BA) CH-47 Chinook, already used by the U.S. Army.
"I think that there's no question that the Air Force is leaning toward US 101 as the solution to the mission," Thompson said.
The Air Force did not have immediate comment on Thursday's review or its timetable for next steps. _________________ Serving the Civil Helo Industry - www.heliopsmag.com
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