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Sikorsky Protests Navy Afghan Plan on Russian Copters

United Technologies Corp.’s Sikorsky unit, the maker of Black Hawk helicopters, protested the U.S. Navy’s plans to buy 21 Russian-made Mi17 choppers, saying U.S. manufacturers weren’t allowed to compete for the contract.

Sikorsky wants the Navy to suspend its request for bids and issue a new one that includes U.S. companies, according to a protest filed with the U.S. Government Accountability Office yesterday. Russian state-owned Kazan Helicopters JSC is the sole maker of the Mi17.

The existing bid request “precludes all consideration of offers to supply U.S. manufactured helicopters, irrespective of their technical or life-cycle cost advantages over Russian aircraft,” according to the protest filed by law firm Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP on Sikorsky’s behalf.

The U.S. military is adding about $159 billion more for wars in Afghanistan and Iraq in the fiscal 2011 budget, which begins Oct. 1. The Pentagon’s goals in Afghanistan include bolstering the army and police, and improving the equipment those forces are using.

In its protest, Sikorsky said the request ignores “persistent difficulties” that various U.S. agencies have encountered when attempting to purchase Mi17 helicopters as well as Sikorsky’s sale of what it called comparable helicopters for use in Afghanistan.

Sikorsky believes its S-61 helicopters would cost less than the Mi17 over the life of the aircraft, said Paul Jackson, a company spokesman.

United Technologies is based in Hartford, Connecticut. Rob Koon, a spokesman for the Naval Air Systems command, wouldn’t immediately comment.

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