UH-72A Lakota

AgustaWestland is suing the US Army over its plans to acquire 155 training helicopters from Airbus Group without holding a formal competition.

In a complaint filed in the US Court of Federal Claims, the Finmeccanica subsidiary urged the court to issue a temporary restraining order, barring the army from awarding the $800m contract to Airbus without first considering competing bids.

The army is planning to repurpose approximately 100 UH-72A Lakotas and then purchase 155 additional helicopters from Airbus to replace its fleet of Bell TH-67 Creek and OH-58 Kiowa primary training helicopters.

A militarised version of Airbus’ EC-145 helicopter, UH-72A Lakota is currently used by the army for non-combat missions such as transport and reconnaissance, The Wall Street Journal reported.

On 4 September, the army issued a notice to industry outlining its plans to buy only EC-145 helicopters to replace its primary training helicopter fleet, as reported by Reuters.

"The army has acted unlawfully and unreasonably by restricting competition to only EC-145 helicopters."

AgustaWestland said in the lawsuit: "The army has acted unlawfully and unreasonably by restricting competition to only EC-145 helicopters and by not opening the competition for its requirements to other helicopter manufacturers."

The army insists that it aims to save money by using the same helicopter for training and operations.

However, AgustaWestland claims that the twin-engine Lakota will cost more to buy and operate than other single-engine helicopters such as its AW119Kx helicopter.

According to the company, each UH-72A Lakota costs nearly $7.5m, compared with $3.25m for its AW199Kx, whose purchase might save hundreds of millions of dollars for the army.

The army’s decision was also criticised by another prominent defence contractor, Bell Helicopter.

Meanwhile, representatives of the US Army and the Justice Department, as well as AgustaWestland, did not respond to comments on the report.

Image: The UH-72A Lakota is a militarised version of Airbus’ EC-145 helicopter. Photo: courtesy of Kim Henry.

Defence Technology