The Air Force selected Boeing Co’s twin-rotor Chinook helicopter for the $15 billion program in 2006, spurring a spate of legal protests and other actions, only to have the Pentagon cancel the program in 2009.
Many executives also wonder how much of a priority the new Air Force program will be if Congress does not find a way to avert $500 billion in additional budget cuts on top of $487 billion in cuts already being implemented.
The Air Force is due to release the final request for proposals in coming weeks, but one defense industry executive said the release could be delayed until later this fall or winter, after Congress deals with the issue of the additional budget cuts.
O’Keefe said he was also frustrated by the Air Force’s decision to put off replacing its fleet of helicopters that secure nuclear missile sites and extend the life of its aging fleet of UH-1 helicopters.
EADS had hoped to bid for the order using the same helicopter it now builds for the U.S. Army, arguing that buying new aircraft would cost about the same as the extensive work needed to extend the life of the existing ones.
“The frustration of working through some of this is what motivated me to be much more vocal,” he said.
EADS has thus far been thwarted in its drive to dramatically expand in the U.S. market, first losing a $35 billion refueling plane contract to Boeing Co and then watching the acquisition programs it was pursuing repeatedly get deferred.