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Sen. Blumenthal criticizes U.S. Army helicopter program after Sikorsky rejection

A Customs and Border Protection UH60A "BlackHawk" helicopter departs Davis-Monthan Air Force Base on a night patrol March 13, 2005 in Tuscon, Arizona.
Alan Staats
A Customs and Border Protection UH60A "BlackHawk" helicopter departs Davis-Monthan Air Force Base on a night patrol March 13, 2005 in Tuscon, Arizona.

Connecticut’s Congressional Delegation is upset at the federal government after it sided with the army’s rejection of a Sikorsky Aircraft bid to replace its Blackhawk helicopters.

Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal spoke outside of the state Capitol in Hartford, while it was closed on Good Friday and said Congress will take a closer look at the replacement process for the army’s helicopters.

“Certain assets are going to require even more scrutiny and oversight and the helicopter program is one of them after this decision,” Blumenthal said. 

His comments come a day after the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a statement saying the U.S. Army was right to reject Sikorsky’s helicopter bid late last year and grant the contract to Bell Textron, which is based in Texas. Sikorsky Aircraft said it will consider next steps while Gov. Ned Lamont said the state will support Sikorsky.

The Stratford-based aircraft manufacturer, which is owned by Lockheed Martin, released a statement Friday, saying the company stood by its design.

“We remain confident the Lockheed Martin Sikorsky and Boeing team submitted the most capable, affordable and lowest-risk Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft solution. We will review the GAO’s decision and determine our next steps,” the company said.

While Sikorsky said its design is the most capable, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) said Sikorsky didn’t supply the army with enough details about its design. It also denied Sikorsky’s claims Bell Textron’s design was not acceptable under the army’s proposal to replace its aging fleet of Blackhawk assault helicopters.

The GAO said in a statement it also rejected Sikorsky’s claims after it expressed it would no longer try to stop the bid.

“GAO dismissed Sikorsky’s additional arguments on the basis that Sikorsky was no longer an interested party to further challenge the procurement.” 

Despite the statement released by GAO, Blumenthal said he did not know why the army rejected Sikorsky’s design.

“I am deeply doubtful and disappointed about this decision and indeed infuriated by the army's refusal to provide the facts underlying this decision,” Blumenthal said.

While Blumenthal said the government’s rejection of Sikorsky’s protest bid is disappointing, Lamont said the state would continue to support the helicopter manufacturer.

He said the company won’t feel the decision for a long time.

“With many years of production left for the Black Hawk and CH-53K King Stallion and additional competitions coming down the road, Sikorsky will keep Stratford, Connecticut, and democracy strong,” Lamont said.

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