SAO JOSE DOS CAMPOS, Brazil — Embraer is closely watching reaction to Boeing’s win of the U.S. Air Force’s KC-X tanker contest to assess whether there could be any political effect on its bid to win a significant Air Force contract over a U.S. competitor.

The Brazilian manufacturer is competing against Wichita-based Hawker Beechcraft for a potential $950 million Air Force contract to supply up to 55 light-attack/advanced-trainer aircraft for training and equipping foreign air forces.

Embraer’s Super Tucano is being offered against Hawker Beechcraft’s AT-6 for the Light Air Support (LAS) requirement. The competing aircraft underwent flight evaluations at Kirtland AFB, N.M., in January. An award is expected in June.

U.S. firm Sierra Nevada Corp. (SNC) has been selected as prime contractor for Embraer’s LAS bid, and would provide logistic support and perform pilot and maintenance training at Clovis, N.M., near Cannon AFB.

Embraer would supply the aircraft and ground training devices, and plans to assemble the Super Tucanos in Jacksonville, Fla., if it wins the contract.

Hawker Beechcraft has selected Salina, Kan., as its site for turnkey training of U.S. advisors and Afghan pilots and maintainers if it wins the LAS contract.

Although the contract is small in comparison to the $35 billion KC-X program, Embraer executives are concerned the politically charged atmosphere surrounding the “Boeing versus Airbus” tanker competition could spill over into LAS.

Last year, Sikorsky unsuccessfully protested a U.S. Navy request for proposals for 21 Mi-17 helicopters to be supplied to the Afghan air force. The U.S. manufacturer had argued the Navy improperly limited the competition to the Russian-made Mi-17 (Aerospace DAILY, Aug. 5, 2010).

Unlike the helicopter procurement — for which the Navy secured a “public interest” exemption from competition rules based on the Mi-17 being the only suitable aircraft — the LAS program is an open competition, Embraer executives note.