By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN — The country’s biggest ever defense contract, to supply medium-range helicopters to the Air Corps, is to go to the American firm Sikorsky Aircraft, a Stratford, Conn.-based firm owned by United Technologies.
Defense Minister Michael Smith last week authorized his staff to begin negotiations for the purchase of three medium-range S-92 helicopters, each costing about euros 20 million, for search-and-rescue purposes.
There will also be an option for another two helicopters for general purpose military transport.
Smith expects contract negotiations to be completed within weeks.
The minister’s decision followed a detailed examination of tenders from Sikorsky and three other companies: the French Eurocopter firm, CHC Scotia, of Scotland, and EH Industries of the UK.
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“The offer from Sikorsky was deemed to be the most strategically and economically advantageous tender taking account of the award criteria,” Smith said.
The companies have been vying for the contract for months. Both Sikorsky and Eurocopter promised to create work for the North Dublin maintenance plant, FLS ‘rospace, formerly known as TEAM and owned by Aer Lingus.
Under the contract rules, the Department of Defense was not allowed take into account the awarding of any work or other job creation until a tender was accepted and the deal was tied up.
The contract was awarded on the basis of price, the characteristics and technical merits of the aircraft, warranty, maintenance, availability of spare parts, after-sales service and the life-cycle costs over a 20-year period.