Leonardo drops UH-72A legal battle


Leonardo Helicopters is no longer pursuing its legal action against the US Army for the purchase of further UH-72As, allowing the Army to go ahead with ordering 16 additional UH-72A Lakota rotorcraft

In 2016, the lower Court of Federal Claims ruled in favour of Leonardo, claiming that the Army’s listing the Lakota as its sole “institutional training model” violated the Competition in Contracting Act which mandates full-and-open competition.

The lawsuit – which had halted the Army’s procurement of Lakotas – was appealed in 2016. The Army argued that the judge originally misinterpreted the government’s procurement terms and ruled on the basis of irrelevant information – Defense News reported. The Federal Circuit ruled in favour of the appeal on 23 January this year, giving the order a go-ahead – Leonardo did not challenge and decided to back down on pursuing further legal action.

A Leonardo spokesperson confirmed this in a statement, saying:

“In light of the Appellate Court ruling, Leonardo Helicopters has decided to discontinue any further legal action regarding the sole-source award of trainer helicopters to the US Army. We nonetheless continue to believe that strong competition for government programs is in the best interests of our warfighters, American taxpayers and the US defense industrial base. Of course, we are disappointed that there was no competition in this case.”

In January 2014, US Army officials were planning to retire the military’s existing training fleet of TH-67 fleet (a military configured variant of the Bell 206B-3) and replace it with its existing UH-27 fleet, as well as purchase additional units. The Army went on to name the Lakota as its “Institutional Training Helicopter” in April 2014.

Leonardo (then AgustaWestland) did not like this and filed a complaint and restraining order against any further UH-27 orders, sparking the almost four-year legal battle.

The Army considered the purchase of 16 alternative helicopters in 2015 (including the AgustaWestland AW109) for a mixed training fleet. The decision was instead made to purchase 16 more UH-27s as de-standardising its fleet would cause “logistics support requirements and training problems”.

Helicopter Investor reached out to Airbus for comment, a spokesperson said:

“Airbus is gratified that Leonardo has suspended its legal actions preventing the U.S. Army from acquiring Lakota helicopters funded in the FY17 defense bill. We hope they will likewise suspend their ongoing efforts to interfere with the aircraft funded in FY16.

“It is time to allow the Army to move forward with its Aviation Restructuring Initiative, meet its readiness needs and accelerate training of new pilots. Our Mississippi workforce is ready to build on its unbroken record of on-time, on-cost Lakota deliveries since the UH-72A was first competitively selected by the Army over other aircraft, including an offering from AgustaWestland.  Airbus looks forward to continuing to compete vigorously with Leonardo in both the defense and commercial helicopter markets”