Lawmakers are balking at replacing aging EC-130Hs with smaller Gulfstream G550s without open competition.
Last year, the U.S. Air Force tried to retire most of its EC-130 Compass Call spy planes, worn from years of flying over Iraq and Afghanistan. Now service officials say replacements are needed urgently — so urgently that they must write a no-bid contract for 10 aircraft whose price tag could top $1.6 billion.
Not so fast, says Congress.
“[T]he Air Force’s proposal to recapitalize the EC-130H Compass Call aircraft using a sole source purchase of ten business class aircraft would not give us any confidence that the Air Force is achieving the maximum value for the American taxpayer,” reads a Senate Armed Services Committee report on the 2017 defense authorization bill.
Built in the 1980s, the 14 Compass Call aircraft are Lockheed Martin C-130 cargo planes packed with special computer equipment and a spiderweb-like antenna that allows the crew to eavesdrop on and attack enemy communications. The planes have been heavily used in the post-9/11 counterinsurgency campaigns.
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