The MH-139 beat out two separate bids to provide helicopters based on the Lockheed Martin Sikorsky H-60 Blackhawk—one from Lockheed for a new variant based on the helicopter being built for the Air Force’s special operations squadrons, and another from Sierra Nevada Corporation that would have refurbished retired US Army UH-60s with new avionics. The competition had been held up by a pre-award protest by Lockheed Martin, and there had been concern that the Air Force would not be able to make a selection in time to avoid having to go back to Congress for reauthorization of the purchase.
The Blackhawk was the original pick to win the program, which the Air Force had intended to simply sole-source to Sikorsky. But then the service’s procurement team decided to put the program up for bid, and the competition paid off for the Air Force. The overall price tag of the helicopter program came down considerably from what the Air Force originally expected to pay—an estimated $4.1 billion. “Strong competition drove down costs for the program, resulting in $1.7 billion in savings to the taxpayer,” said Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson in a statement on the award.
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