Beechcraft, which has lost its appeal to the U.S. (GAO) to overturn the U.S. Air Force’s award of the Light Air Support (LAS) contract to a Sierra Nevada/ team, is urging Congress to limit the scope of contract, worth up to nearly $1 billion, to the minimum requirements.
Beechcraft appealed the LAS decision for the second time to GAO in March after the Air Force re-awarded the LAS program to Sierra Nevada/Embraer in February. The Air Force originally awarded the contract to Sierra Nevada in December 2011, but that source-selection process was found to be out of compliance with contracting requirements and was set aside in favor of a new competition. Beechcraft’s bid was based on its AT-6.
GAO’s decision would appear to end the drawn-out protest, but Beechcraft is continuing its fight. “It is now time for Congress to step in and put an end to this flawed acquisition process and limit the purchase of the Brazilian aircraft to only that of the Afghanistan requirement covered by the first delivery order of the LAS,” the company says.
The LAS contract calls for SNC/Embraer to deliver 20 A-29 Super Tucanos for use in Afghanistan next year. This initial order is valued at $427.5 million, but the program could reach more than $950 million in value if other allies opt to purchase the A-29. In addition, Embraer executives say the contract award has renewed interest internationally for the Super Tucano, prompting company officials to conduct a new assessment of the market.
Beechcraft says GAO’s review looked only at whether the Air Force followed the process, but not whether the process itself was actually correct. “We question whether the Embraer aircraft with its foreign-made weapons can be certified to U.S. military standards in time to provide the mission-capable aircraft per the contract,” Beechcraft says, adding, “It is deeply distressing that the Air Force selected a more expensive, less capable, foreign-manufactured airplane with weapons and systems unfamiliar to, and outside the control of, the U.S. military.”
The U.S. Court of Federal Claims had cleared the Sierra Nevada/Embraer team to continue work on its LAS contract during GAO’s review, so the company has been making headway. Typically, work on a contract is halted while GAO reviews a protest, but the Air Force cited the urgent need for the aircraft in the field as a rationale to lift the stop-work order.
Work is already under way to build a new Embraer final assembly facility for the U.S. aircraft in Jacksonville, Fla. The first aircraft should be through the assembly line there by November.
The Brazilian aircraft manufacturer, meanwhile, is displaying its Super Tucano at the Paris air show for the first time next week (AWIN First, June 11). The aircraft on display will be one of two delivered to Mauritania, the African nation that has ordered three of the A-29s. Its first aircraft was delivered in October.
An Air Force official did not comment by press time on the decision.