GAO rejects Airbus’ frivolous challenge of Navy helicopter contract, securing Florida jobs
The Leonardo TH-73A.

The challenge put 100 maintenance jobs in Milton at risk.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently issued a comprehensive decision criticizing and rejecting Airbus’s frivolous protest of the U.S. Navy’s purchase of training helicopters from AgustaWestland Philadelphia Corporation (Leonardo).

Airbus’s decision to challenge the Navy, a move that threatened hundreds of American jobs, forced a temporary pause on the construction and delivery of Leonardo’s helicopters, thereby delaying vital military training exercises.

Following the GAO’s denial of Airbus’s challenge, Leonardo restarted production of the Navy’s aircraft at its facility in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The company will also employ up to 100 Floridians at a comprehensive maintenance facility near Milton, Florida. Considering the coronavirus pandemic’s significant economic fallout, Leonardo’s investment in Santa Rosa County, which will produce much-needed jobs, comes at a critical time.

On Jan. 13, the Navy selected Leonardo as the best-qualified company to manufacture new aircraft for the Advanced Helicopter Training System (AHTS) program, which helps prepare Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard pilots. Leonardo’s new aircraft, said U.S. Navy Captain Todd St. Laurent, will be the “cornerstone of AHTS.”

“The TH-73A will provide a modern helicopter training platform that will serve rotary and tilt-rotor training requirements into the foreseeable future. These new helicopters will ensure the Navy has capacity to train several hundred aviation students per year at Naval Air Station (NAS) Whiting Field in Milton, Florida,” he said.

Nevertheless, Airbus challenged the Navy’s decision on Feb. 3, effectively halting the delivery of important military training equipment and potentially risking combat readiness.

Furthermore, the move came only three days after Airbus received the largest-ever fine for violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and the Arms Export Control Act (AECA).

Authorities in the U.S., France, and the United Kingdom uncovered Airbus’s far-reaching, systematic schemes to bribe government officials in exchange for lucrative contracts. The company also misled U.S. authorities in order to export U.S. military technology, which officials say posed a threat to national security.

Leonardo will produce and deliver a total of 130 TH-73A helicopters that will help prepare the next generation of military aviators. While deliveries were originally scheduled to begin this year and run through 2024, the potential impacts of Airbus’s protest on the Navy’s receipt of new aircraft are not yet clear.

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also the publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.


  • TrueJustice

    May 17, 2020 at 3:49 pm

    Airbus filed a “frivolous” challenge to another company, which harmed not just the other company, but hurt America’s military readiness.

    Airbus, should have to pay for this frivolous filing, so that these types of challenges do not become the norm.

  • Chris

    May 19, 2020 at 11:35 am

    Get your facts right. You can be happy about keeping the jobs in Florida, but if Airbus had won, the jobs would be in Mississippi. The would still all be American jobs. Also, Leonardo, the winner of this competition, filed the same exact type of protest two years ago when Airbus won a follow on contract to build additional UH-72 helicopters for the US Army. Do some research before you spout nonsense.

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