Defence will run a competitive tender process to select the Air 9000 Phase 8 Naval Combat Helicopter replacement for the RAN’s 16 S-70B-2 Seahawks and the 11 cancelled SH-2G(A) Seasprites, Defence Minister Senator John Faulkner has announced.
Contrary to earlier reports and defence sources saying a sole-sourced contract for Lockheed Martin/Sikorsky’s MH-60R ‘Romeo’ would likely be awarded as an urgent acquisition, Faulkner and Cabinet’s National Security Committee appear to have taken onboard arguments put forward by Eurocopter subsidiary Australian Aerospace, whose stunning 11th hour marketing effort culminated in the company bringing two NH90 NFH demonstrators to Australia in late January/early February for the Pacific 2010 naval exposition in Sydney and visits to Nowra and Canberra.
A February 25 ministerial statement said the “the decision to progress the project via a competitive tender was consistent with the Kinnaird and Mortimer procurement reforms,” and that the tender process would be “cost-capped.”
The decision will see thorough evaluations of both the MH-60R and NH90 NFH undertaken by Navy and DMO personnel over the next few months, with the selection of the winning contender expected to be followed closely by second pass approval early next year due to the urgent nature of the requirement. “The competitive process would commence in the next few months with the government making a final decision about the new helicopter in 2011,” Minister Faulkner said. “This schedule will enable the new helicopters to be delivered from 2014.”
For a detailed analysis of the issues surrounding Phase 8, see page 32 of the March issue of Australian Aviation.