Sept. 19, 2007 -- U.S. Air Force special operations officials changed a key performance parameter (KPP) during a vital review stage of the combat, search and rescue (CSAR-X) helicopter source selection in a way that avoided Pentagon attention because they wanted to field a new aircraft more quickly and thought there was too much risk involved in developing other platforms, according to sources intimately familiar with the service community and the program.
Normally such a KPP change, made in spring 2005, would have required close scrutiny by the Joint Requirements Oversight Council (JROC). But, the sources say, such a JROC review would likely have pushed back the CSAR-X acquisition by six months or longer. Instead, the sources say, service officials made the move as an administrative -- or relatively minor -- change, which required no such close review.
The reason the Air Force special operations officials wanted the change at all, the sources say, is because they wanted to make sure the Boeing H-47 Chinook variant would be able to make the grade.
As part of the requirements package, the CSAR-X aircraft would have to be very transportable. Indeed, sources say, mobility was one of the major concerns in developing the criteria for the platform.
To demonstrate that mobility, competitors had to show they could tear down and reassemble the aircraft quickly. Initial requirements called for reassembly within three hours to make the helicopter mission capable. The KPP change altered that to "flight ready." The Boeing H-47 variant test made that requirement just under the wire.
The reason why the service officials wanted to make sure the Boeing aircraft could enter and remain in the competition is because they thought it was best aircraft at the time for the job, according to sources. One source said the other aircraft, being offered by Lockheed Martin and Sikorsky, were still in relatively early developmental stages and service officials were concerned that the aircraft were still too unproven.
On the other hand, the sources said, the Chinook was a tried and true platform, especially for special operations units.