Airbus protest US Navy decision for Leonardo

Airbus Helicopters is formally protesting the U.S. Navy’s decision to have Leonardo Helicopters build its new training aircraft, halting production of the TH-73 for up to 100 days.

Airbus filed a protest with the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) on Feb. 3, arguing that its twin-engine H135 was not properly considered to replace the aging TH-57 Sea Ranger. The Navy now has 30 days to file a report on why it went with Leonardo.

The Navy picked Leonardo’s single engine TH-119 in mid January over the Airbus H-135 and the Bell 407GXi to replace the TH-57 which the Coast Guard, Marines and Navy primarily train with.

“While we respect the Navy’s right to choose the asset that best meets its needs, we believe that certain technical aspects of our proposal were not assessed accurately,” an Airbus spokesperson said in a statement emailed to Vertical. “We’re confident that when these technical misunderstandings have been clarified, the Navy will be reassured that the H135 is not only the best overall value for taxpayers, but also the most suitable aircraft for the mission. The H135 is a proven military trainer with more than 355,000 training flight hours logged by 10 U.S. allies around the world.”

The H135 stood out from the field as already certified to fly under instrument flight rules (IFR) when the program began, not to mention its twin Pratt & Whitney PW206B3 engines. The powerplants made the aircraft both heavier and more expensive than its competitors, but Airbus wagered it was a lower-risk option for basic rotorcraft training and more representative of the aircraft pilots would fly once they graduated to fleet operations.

Bell, which built the legacy TH-57 Sea Ranger, had not filed a protest with GAO Feb. 3. Losing bidders have 10 days to file a protest from the time they receive a Navy debrief on the contract award.

GAO has up to 100 days to consider both arguments and either dismiss or uphold the protest. Leonardo is unable to perform work under its contract until the issue is decided.

The protest could disrupt the Navy’s relatively swift procurement timeline for the TH-73 if allowed to drag for more than three months. The service’s prescribed schedule sees the first TH-73 delivered by the end of the year and a production schedule of three per month until its 130-aircraft fleet is fielded in 2024. Plans are to completely retire the TH-57 by 2023.

Airbus touted its twin-engine training aircraft as a low-risk platform with a modern glass cockpit, four-axis autopilot, integrated flight management system, and certified for instrument flight rules (IFR) operation.


The US is doing as much as possible not to use Airbus? Okay.

1 Like

US uses a ton of Airbus helicopters, An example is the Army.

What’s your personal opinion on the situation given you are a chopper expert? Is their aircraft better.

Many thanks 🤣

1 Like

It was a huge shock to see Leonardo win this Airbus has been chasing after this for a long time now and the fact a small company showed up, Im kinda curious on the decision. I personally think IFR ships need be multi engined but that’s a Rotorism


I am quite astonished at all those protests against military/business decisions (involving European companies).

We had a big marine order recently where there are now protest from Northern German companies and now Airbus joining the ranks of companies claiming wrongdoings in decisions made against them.
It will be interesting to see how much wrongdoing (if any) there actually has been.

1 Like

It shouldn’t be a big deal and it isn’t. Airbus gave them an option to buy their product, and the Navy decided it wasn’t for them. It’s as simple as that.

In a free market, the military can buy equipment from whoever they so chose to buy from. Obviously, Leonardo Helicopters had a better product.


While this isn’t a typical thing I think in the time of Airbus bribing militaries theyre ticked the US went with the other players

1 Like

It strikes fear into my heart when I hear VV1E345 B06 (H57) check in to do practice approaches. Separating helicopters and fixed wing is tricky.

Why do choppers have a minimum IFR speed? @RotorGuy

Another good example of this is that many airlift companies, such as my local Airlift Northwest, which I have toured, use Airbus helicopters.

That’s what we would probably think but it definitely is a big deal for the companies as they wouldn’t protest otherwise.
Not sure why companies protesting against such decisions is so common nowadays though.

1 Like

Money, competition and bigger stakes in securing orders

1 Like

Those are all potential reasons, right. The market is just more competitive as well (I would argue).


1 Like

You have to remember that the Government has a history of doing such things. Take the A330 tanker for example. Airbus won the contract then lost it on the grounds of saving taxpayers money. It didn’t and it’s still got major issues as you are aware, meanwhile the US has allies all around the world operating this aircraft with no issues. I think it wasn’t fair at all.

1 Like

You’re right, that’s true too. Thanks!

1 Like

That is 100% fair. At the end of the day, saving taxpayer money is a huge priority.

How does Airbus think business works? I mean common…

That’s the thing, there was no savings. As you can tell given very few are in service. There have been huge over runs and delays. It’s probably cost vast amounts of sums extra.

Not to forget that the A330 tanker was already in service at the time with the RAF and our allies so it was flying and had a proven track record. It would also have been built in the US so it would lead to job growth.

2 years of delays to the schedule and $3 billion in cost over runs. You do the math and tell me if it’s worked out cheaper for the taxpayers?

Norwegian Army need 30 new helicopters to replace their Bell 412sps. Hope they go for something well tested and with a good record like the Blackhawk. Right off the shelf.

The parlament decided back in 2001 to buy new helicopters for the Coastguard to replace the old Westland Lynx mk86. They chose the NH90 (Airbus) It took 19 years to deliver them all and it’s sad but true; tons of issues… They have been grounded, very high maintenance costs and frequency, sent back to Italy for upgrade etc.

I think it has to do with 3 things.
#1 politics with France and airbus. Meaning that the US wants to do more business in the US and less elsewhere. The fact the airbus gets subsidiaries and bribes people to take their product, also plays into the politics. They are seen as not following the rules.

#2. Product cost and efficiency. I don’t know either of the choices well, but I do know the Navy WOULD NOT skimp on safety or performance, just to prove a point.

#3. If the Navy is reliant on France to produce these aircraft, then the Navy is essentially at the will of any dispute that could come up politically between the US and France, and this would harm the Navy’s ability to perform its basic duty.