Transcript: Media roundtable to announce Future Long Range Assault Aircraft contract award

By U.S. Army Public AffairsDecember 7, 2022

Moderator: Ellen Lovett, OCPA Public Affairs Specialist for Modernization

Mr. Douglas Bush: Good afternoon and thank you for participating in our media roundtable for the Army’s Future Long Range Assault Aircraft Weapon System Development Contract Award. We’ve all been anticipating this announcement. I want to thank the entire team for dedicating the appropriate discipline and rigor in the acquisition and proposal review process to get us to this point. So, a couple of brief points and I’ll turn it over to my team of experts here. You’ve heard me use the term “acquisition is speed”, well this program is an example of that and in the best way possible. We have taken new authorities from Congress. We have melded them with a very thoughtful, very deliberate approach in terms of trying out things before we proceed and doing things in terms of the program structure to allow us to move at speed – greater speed than originally planned to get this capability in the hands of Soldiers. We wouldn’t have gotten this far without great partnerships across the enterprise including our industry partners. We needed creativity and innovation from industry and entrepreneurs working with us to get this point – to get to this point as fast as we did. We need – also need our defense industry partners to continue to deliver on time and budget. So, I’m confident we’ll succeed in that regard. Finally, we need our Army partners to ensure the Army succeeds. So, Army Acquisition, Army Futures Command, Army Material Command, Army Contracting Command and the Army staff and many others worked together to get us to this point. This is the kind of thing we do routinely in the Army. The Army’s a big place and everyone’s gotta work together to accomplish our goals. This contract award is a very important example of that kind of cooperation across the Army. So, working together we can ensure we can get this done fast and get this done right. So, I’m really excited by today’s announcement. It’s our chance to move to the next step in this vital program.

Maj. Gen. Robert Barrie: Got it. Thanks for that sir. So, Major General Robert Barrie, Program Executive Officer for Aviation and I’d echo what Mr. Bush said. Really a significant milestone and a very important capability that we look forward to bringing to the Army wouldn’t be here today without partnership, certainly from industry and across the Army as described by Mr. Bush. Very proud of the work that has gone into the program to get us to really this starting point, this inflexion point to continue this development and look forward to, in the near term, doing just that. So, thanks Sir, appreciate it.

Maj. Gen. Walter Rugen: This is General Wally Rugen. It’s – it’s a great day for our Army, great day for Army Aviation and I sincerely appreciate the support across a very wide enterprise to include OSD, Congress, the Secretariat Army staff, Futures Command, Army Material Command, what we’ve called the Aviation Enterprise or the Aviation Six Pack and certainly industry, and really what the FLRAA requirements represent is an ability for us to claw back a very large capability gap that we have in the Army and that is to conduct a brigade assault in a period of darkness and this FLRAA will fundamentally do that. So, thanks to the team. I’m very proud and happy to be and honored to be associated with it.

Joseph Giunta: This is Joe Giunta, I’m the Executive Director of Army Contracting Command Redstone Arsenal. It is a great day to be here supporting my two mission partners, Maj. Gen. Rugen and Maj. Gen. Barrie and be with the Honorable Bush. What an outstanding day for our Army, the Army Aviation community, and our soldiers. The FLRAA Weapon System Development Contract Award represents an incredible amount of acquisition and contracting excellence within the FLRAA team of teams. I'm proud to highlight that the small but mighty ACC-RSA Contracting Team quickly aligned to the Future Vertical Lift Cross Functional Team and PEO Aviation’s FLRAA program priorities by supporting and executing parallel requirements simultaneously via the use of Other Transaction Authority and Federal Acquisition Regulation contracting strategies. I’m very proud of the entire team and I look forward to realizing their contributions providing our Army with an awesome capability and support of the future battlefield. Thank you.

Mr. Bush: For the record, we did not filibuster 30 minutes [laughing].

Moderator: All right. Jen Judson, do you have a question for our team?

Jen Judson: Um, yes. I did not hear who won the competition. So, can you tell us that?

JG: Yep. Textron Bell Helicopter.

JJ: Thank you for that. Um, and just to follow up on that. Now I imagine there – there could be a protest here, so can you just talk about whether you have factored that potential into your schedule or if you’re not anticipating that, can you just talk a little bit about the schedule where that stands.

JG: So, the answer is we’ve anticipated that potentially happening and have accounted for that in our timelines but, of course, whether that happens is up to the – the vendor in question.

Moderator: Jen, do you have a clarifying question?

JJ: Nope, I’m good.

Moderator: Okay, great. Lee Hudson, Politico.

Lee Hudson: Yes, thanks for doing this. Could you tell us what the award amount is for the contract?

JG: Certainly, so total 1.3 billion total ceiling. On the contract, the initial obligation will be 232 million dollars.

Moderator: Morgan Brennan, NBC. Morgan, do you have a question? Perhaps she dropped off. We’ll circle back. Ashley Roque, Breaking Defense. Do you have a question for us?

Ashley Roque: Hi, could you sort of outline the $232 million initial award? What does that cover and the timeframe for that?

MGB: Sure. So, this is Major General Barrie. The timeframe is over the next 19 months and it’s using the authorities granted by Congress through the middle tier of acquisition, will allow us to continue with preliminary design and then get to the design, development, and delivery of virtual prototypes. Essentially a model-based system that we’ll use as we proceed and again that’s over the next 19 months. For the initial portion of that contract that I described that ceiling – total ceiling for what we’re awarding today. Over.

AR: Wonderful. Yeah, thanks. Can you just sort of outline for us sort of why you opted to go with the tilt rotor and sort of what put Bell ahead of the competitor?

MGRB: It’s gonna – so again this is Major General Barrie and so we’re not gonna talk specifics about the evaluation but what we were seeking is the best value approach. So, using what General Rugen described the requirements that the Army had for us. We then had an evaluation using folks from across the enterprise to go toward a set of factors that would deliver a best value approach to the Army and that’s how we arrived at this decision.

Moderator: Roxana Tiron, Bloomberg.

Roxana Tiron: Hi. Thank you so much for doing this. I also had a similar question as Ashley as to why you decided to pick Bell Textron, but also have you talked to them about what kind of improvements will the – the, you know – the sort of vertical lift helicopter have to have to see to through the brownout capabilities that, you know, have killed so many pilots in – on the V-22?

MGRB: So, could you talk to the – the issue, not specific to this award?

DB:  Yeah, we – we have degraded visual environment, which is part of you know – a subset of degraded visual environment is the brownout condition and certainly that design consideration and that performance specification is part of our process going forward. We are very concerned about the loss of visual reference in vertical lift systems and the cognitive offloading that we want to attain in our future systems. So, with the digital cockpit and full authority digital fly-by-wire capabilities, we certainly see an ability to protect our crews in the future.

RT: Thank you so much and, really quick, are you expecting that Lockheed and Boeing might file a – a protest on this?

MGRB: So, again we’ve planned for that contingency but that is completely up to the – to the vendor.

RT: Thank you.

Moderator: Thank you. Matt Beinart, Defense Daily.

Matt Beinart: Great, thank you. Apologies if I missed this, so I wanted to double-check but do you have an idea or an estimate of how many of these aircrafts could be included as part of the full potential $1.3 billion ceiling and then also if I missed it, you know, how many aircrafts are included in that initial obligation of $232 million. Thank you.

MGRB: Yeah, Matt so I start that certainly. This is Rob Barrie.  There are zero aircraft being procured in the initial portion of the middle tier of acquisition. The delivery will be the delivery of a virtual prototype capability that we will use as we continue the development, subsequent to a milestone B in the future. So, near term focus is zero. There are zero quantities of delivered aircraft in this initial middle tier. There are options that are included in this award that allow for the entirety of the program through to fielding to potentially be exercised based on future decisions. Over.

Moderator: Thank you. Meredith Roaten of National Defense Magazine.

Meredith Roaten: Hi. I wanted to ask if you could talk about, now that you are actually announcing what kind of – can you talk more about what caused the delay in the decision and also how you expect that to impact your timeline of 2025?

JG: So, I – I can take the first part.  So – so every source selection is a deliberate process. I don’t really call it a delay. It was a very complex procurement and so we did our due diligence and we produced what I think is a best value source selection decision at the end of that process.  In terms of any future delay, I’ll de – defer to Major General Barrie.

MGRB:  Yeah, thanks Joe. So, yes these are event-based activities, and we did take a challenge on the schedule to try, and we were obviously gonna do it in a disciplined and deliberate fashion, but we wanted do it as fast we could for all the reasons that we need this capability in the field. So, we are confident that the process we went through was disciplined and deliberate and it counted for the complexity of the decision that was involved.

MGWR: And I would just add that, you know, years ago as part of the FY20 appropriation, FLRAA was accelerated by 4 years. So, we are very much early in this process and again that’s from the requirement’s guide just watching how fast this team has gone but it’s – it’s been years ago and maybe forgotten by – by folks.

Moderator: Dan Parson, the War Zone.  Do you have a question for us?

Dan Parsons: Yes. So, when you say best value is what made the decision between the two designs, I mean they’re – they’re radically different designs. Can you be a little more specific about what – I mean are we talking about fuel economy or, you know, lifetime maintenance costs or acquisition. I mean what – what goes into that best value calculation?

MGRB: Yeah, so I mean to specifically answer your question, no, in that can we be more specific on the factors of how exactly we arrived at – at this point, no. However, best value is meant in the truest sense that it was a comprehensive analysis of a variety of factors, no one thing really drove the decision. So, if you look at – broadly at a very high level the factors or variables of performance costs and schedule all were considered and the combination of those are defined explicitly and evaluated and what’s arrived at is what I would describe as a best value – what the Army would describe as a best value selection. Over.

Moderator: Thank you. Frank Colucci, VFS, Vertiflite Magazine.

Frank Colucci: Good evening. How do you – well who evaluates a digital prototype and how do you go from a digital prototype to a real prototype?

MGRB: Yeah.  So, great question and model-based system engineering, right and embracing model-based system engineering in this digital environment is a cornerstone of this program. So, what we wanted to do was leverage the modeling and activity that went into a preliminary design review and be able to use that in the future both to assess the design itself as well as to assess potentially training and sustainment of this system. So, we’re very excited that this early in the program we will have a well-defined and robust digital model of the system and that is a – a very early win we believe for this program, and we’re excited to see the outcome. Over.

Moderator: Thank you. Dan Schere, InsideDefense.

Dan Schere: Hi, I – I actually wanted to just kind of zoom out in terms of talking about vertical lift – future vertical lift. I wanted to ask about the future of FARA. I know there was some supply chain issues that had delayed the delivery of the engines. I guess, are you confident at this point that the FARA program is gonna move forward as scheduled?

MGRB: It’s on track, yes.

Moderator: Okay.

MGRB: As of today.

DS: So, spring 2023, is that still the projected timeline?

DB: For what?


MGRB: For delivery of that [Crosstalk].

DS: For – for the program to move – it’s still on track?

DB: Yes.

DS: Okay.

Moderator: Marcus Weisgerber, Defense One.

Marcus Weisgerber: Okay, thanks for taking my question. Can you talk of if industrial base implications played a role in your decision?

MGRB: Yes, certainly the specific – if the specific question is did we consider the suppliers and the suppliers’ role in an industry prime, yes certainly considered in execution of any program but if your specific question was is the selection of one or the other then that is not the case, right, that – that was not part of the factors.

MW: Okay, thanks and just as a follow-up, do you have a – a total – an estimate for what the total program to buy, you know, the full complement is worth?

Col. David Phillips: So, $7.1 billion.

MGRB: $7.1 billion is the potential for the engineering and manufacturing development and potential production options being awarded today. There’s a larger number, you know, on the order of 70 billion dollars of potential depending on how many aircraft the Army procured over the long-term to include potential foreign military sales. So, that’s both near term and long term. Over.

DB: We don’t know that yet.

MGRB: Correct.

DB: So, that’s coming later.

Moderator: [Crosstalk]

MW: Thank you.

Moderator: Thank you. Zach Rosenberg, Janes Defense.

Zach Rosenberg: Thank you. Apologies if I missed this. I’m curious when we might see an actual physical aircraft or prototype. Is that accorded for in this contract?

MGRB: So, timeline initial prototype is in ‘25. That is accounted for in the contract. It is not a part of the base contract. It would be awarded as an option in a subsequent decision by the Milestone Decision Authority. So, yes, it’s accounted for in the scope of the contract, it’s not awarded today. Over.

ZR: Okay, thank you and a quick follow-up. You mentioned the potential role of other UH-60 operators. Were there any – was there any input from foreign operators into the Army’s decision today?

MGRB: Uh, no. Yeah, no. Again we – we conducted over 20 soldier touch points across both the – the – our infantry, medical evacuation, obviously all our pilots and that was part of the – the data that went into our requirements development. Certainly, all COMPOs were also represented there. So, it’s a full total Army look and again just to inform the requirement.

Moderator: Okay, thank you.

ZR: Thank you.

Moderator: Brian Everstine, Aviation Week.

Brian Everstine: Yes, thank you for doing this. You talked about doing your due diligence ahead of a possible protest and you’re accounting for the impact of the timeline there. Is there any way you can quantify what that timeline impact would be that you’re planning for and is there anything you can say more about doing your due diligence other than crossing your T’s and dotting your I’s?

MGRB: So, I’m gonna let my contracting expert answer in detail but the diligence wasn’t just to avoid a potential protest, it was to make sure we picked the right aircraft for the Army. So, it’s – it’s more than just a – a protest issue and I’m confident the process we used achieved that but in terms of a potential timeline on what a protest might be-

JG: So, the near-term timeline we’re specifically talking about the contract protest versus program impacted which is out a little further to Maj. Gen. Barrie.

MGRB: Yeah.

JG: So – so within 3 days of the award the – the prime or the industry partners have the ability to request a debrief within those 3 days. After that request has been made then we have 5 days from the government’s perspective to calendar the debrief. Now that can – can go left or right of that based on the industry partner’s availability and the availability of the source selection team but that’s generally the – the timeframe. After the debrief is given, the offerer has up to 2 days to ask additional questions of the debrief and then after that the government has 5 days to respond to those additional questions and that ends then the formal debrief process. Over.

Moderator: Thank you Mr. Giunta. I’d like to circle back to see if Morgan Brennan was able to make it back on the line. Morgan [Crosstalk]

Morgan Brennan: Hi.

Moderator: Oh, great.

Morgan Brennan: Hi, sorry – sorry I was on TV actually breaking this news, so [laughing] I apologize for missing – missing you calling on me and – and I think because of that I’m probably gonna standdown on asking a question just because I need to catch up on – on what I did miss.

Moderator: Okay. Does anybody – does anybody have any – any follow-up questions?

MGRB: On this topic.

Moderator: On this topic [laughing].

RT: I – I have a – this is Roxana. I just have – I just wanna clarify something. The total like once you exercise all the options for FLRAA would be $7 billion with production, is that correct?

MGRB: No. So, let’s clarify the numbers.

JG: Get the exact [Crosstalk]

MGRB: Go ahead.

CDP: So, the $7 billion is the total for this contract award with all the options and that includes the prototype aircraft and the first lot of LRIP aircraft.

RT: First lot of LRIP, okay. So, this contract – all the options for this contract and then first [garbled], okay. Thank you.

Moderator: Thank you and that was Col. David Phillips speaking.

RT: Thank you.

Moderator: Thank you. Mr. Bush, we’ve – we’ve had an opportunity to speak to each of our reporters, would you – do you have some closing remarks?

DB: Just thank everybody. Of course, happy to do follow-ups through normal channels. There’s a lot to this and just really excited to get this over the line and now the really, really hard part starts [Crosstalk], which is developing the aircraft and getting it to Soldiers, which is what this is really about and just again thanks to the whole Army team. It’s a big team and I think we worked really well together here.

Moderator: Thank you all for joining us. Some of you may have some additional questions. Please feel free to follow up with Jamal Beck via email. There is a press release in your inboxes and that has Jamal Beck’s contact information. You can also reach out to – to me, Ellen Lovett at OCPA and this concludes today’s event. Thank you so much for joining us.