(HBC) said today that the firm has learned from Justice Department attorneys at a U.S. Court of Federal Claims hearing that the U.S. Air Force apparently awarded its Light Air Support (LAS) aircraft contract to Sierra Nevada and Brazilian airframe manufacturer on Dec. 22.
Furthermore, as of early Dec. 30 government officials apparently have elected not to make public the contract award, although Dec. 28 court transcripts confirmed the fact, according to HBC officials.
The Pentagon customarily announces new or recent contract awards each business day around 5 p.m. Eastern, after regular trading in U.S. stock markets has stopped. [Editor’s note: the last set of Pentagon awards to be announced in 2011 is expected later today.]
The omission prompted Bill Boisture, Hawker Chairman and CEO, to say, “This is yet another example of the Air Force’s lack of transparency throughout this competition.” HBC filed suit with the Court because it was declined a review of why it was disqualified from the LAS competition. “With this development, it now seems even clearer that the Air Force intended to award the contract to Embraer from early in this process.”
Hawker’s AT-6 LAS bid, a beefed up and more powerful version of its T-6 Texan II trainer, faced stiff competition from the Embraer EMB-314 Super Tucano fielded through Sierra, during the LAS competition. The AT-6 is a newcomer to counterinsurgency warfare and the LAS program would have been its first opportunity for combat experience. Super Tucano, in contrast, has been on active duty for several years with the armed forces of Brazil and Colombia, among other nations, and it is a veteran LAS combat aircraft.
As Aviation Week & Space Technology reports in its Jan. 2, 2012, edition, the outcome of the legal battle could directly affect Hawker’s future. Despite the profits from military sales, the company has posted cumulative operating losses of nearly $1 billion since 2009, and its core market of business jets is not expected to rebound significantly until at least 2013. And unlike other bizjet manufacturers such as, which is owned by , and Gulfstream, a unit of , Hawker does not have the backstop of a large corporate parent. Investment bank Goldman Sachs and Canadian buyout firm Onex Corp. purchased Hawker in 2007 from for $3.3 billion.
In recent months, there has been widespread speculation that the company’s owners could try to recoup part of that investment by selling off some or all of its operations in pieces, with the military segment going to a U.S. buyer and the civil aircraft unit sold to an entity in China, which is trying to become a player in the business and general aviation market. But if the company does not win the LAS competition, its military line would be less attractive.