Italian aerospace giant Finmeccanica has sued the US government over the Pentagon's plan to award an Army helicopter contract to Airbus, violating its rules against sole-source contracts.
According to the complaint filed recently by AgustaWestland North America, a unit of Finmeccanica, the company is asking the court to block the Army's planned order of 155 Airbus helicopters.
"This pre-award bid protest motion challenges the actions of Defendant, the United States, acting by and through the Department of the Army, in undertaking a sole source procurement of 155 helicopters of a specific make and model," the company said in the US federal court filing on September 19.
The Army's announcement on September 4 that it would purchase only EC-145 helicopters, made exclusively by Airbus, violates laws and "is arbitrary and capricious and an abuse of discretion," the company said.
Finmeccanica, whose AgustaWestland unit makes helicopters, asked the court to suspend the order plan pending a decision on the complaint that could force the Army to open up the contract to competitive bidding.
The Italian company insists its commercial helicopter, the AW119Kx, is better suited for army training and has lower operating costs than the 155 Airbus EC-145 helicopters the Army said it intended to buy.
The purchase is part of the Army's plan to retire aging training helicopters and add to its fleet. The Army would repurpose about 100 Airbus light-utility UH-72A Lakotas, a version of the EC-145, for training, and purchase 155 new Airbus EC-145s.
AgustaWestland said that the decision to buy the Airbus helicopters would cause it "irreparable harm" if the court allowed the deal to go through.
The list price of an Airbus EC-145 is $7.5 million, more than double the $3.25 million price tag for an AW199Kx, Finmeccanica said in its complaint.
In total, the Pentagon would spend $1.16 billion in buying exclusively from Airbus, compared with $829 million in a Finmeccanica deal, a saving of $330 million, the company argued.