Hawker Beechcraft Takes AT-6 Bid Decision To Court

 - December 28, 2011, 1:00 PM
Hawker Beechcraft AT-6

Hawker Beechcraft, which has been excluded by the U.S. Air Force from competing for a contract to supply a new light attack aircraft, is fighting mad and fighting back.

The Wichita-based manufacturer of business jets and turboprops filed suit yesterday with the Court of Federal Claims following notification that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) declined to review its protest of the Air Force decision, which was made public in November.

The company’s AT-6 light attack variant of the T-6 turboprop trainer was previously considered a front-runner in the competition for a contract valued at nearly $1 billion, and Hawker Beechcraft and its partners in the AT-6 say they have invested more than $100 million preparing for the competition. 

The company says it has built more than 725 T-6 trainers for six allied air forces worldwide, further noting that “the graduation to the AT-6 light attack airplane would be a natural progression.”

“We are disappointed in the GAO’s decision as we were relying on their investigation to provide transparency into what has been a bidding process of inconsistent, irregular and constantly changing requirements,” said Hawker Beechcraft chairman and CEO Bill Boisture.

Some analysts believe the GAO decision leaves the Super Tucano from Brazil’s Embraer as the most likely winner, but Hawker Beechcraft asserts that the AT-6’s benefits far outweigh those of the competitions’ offerings, citing the following advantages: “The AT-6 is designed and manufactured in the U.S. to be used by the U.S. and its allies; the AT-6 is the sum of the U.S. Air Force’s proven T-6, A-10C mission system and mc-12W sensor suite, which offers the Department of Defense logistics and cost efficiencies that no other aircraft in the competition can match; and the weapons and avionics systems included on the AT-6 are familiar to NATO allies and have proved effective on many continents and in other NATO aircraft.

“As a U.S. company, we believe we deserve a fair chance at this contract,” said Boisture.

Comments

chinook555's picture

These comments are the result of various versions of an interview posted on line with the CEO of Hawker Beechcraft or their press releases.

Seems Hawker (the Canadian portion of the name) Beechcraft doesn't understand the US government procurement system at the least and more likely it is because of the answer they got.

When you are found to be outside of the competitive range (and it appears it was for technical reasons as stated in the GAO decision denying their protest) debriefs cannot occur until an award is made. Also, late is late - Hawker had first 3 three days to file a pre-award protest and then 10 days to request a debrief - the GAO found they did neither for 17 days. Hawker says it is because of the amount of time to get the proper notifications to the proper manager even though they signed fro the certified letter. Does Hawker now have an opening in the mail room?

Mr. Boisture is right to keep fighting - the USAF did not select the Hawker product after a full and open competitive assessment so all he has left is to try and "win" on a non-technical, political basis and using the courts - kinda like the way China does business. I wonder why Mr. Maslowski retired? Didn't want to chase more windmills?

It's also amazing almost no research is done on this acquisition by so many of those "reporting" it - just take the Hawker press release and run with it. For example, many articles states Embraer is the only bidder left. Problem is, with a little research, a US company called Sierra Nevada, is the prime, and Embraer is a supplier - kinda left out of this article.

Mr. Boisture has stated elsewhere ". . . .we have been excluded on the basis of some relatively unimportant technical detail." - must not have been unimportant to the USAF - and rather arrogant on his part to draw his conclusion it was unimportant. He also says they are waiting for a clear answer. Ooops - guess they did have an answer - just didn't like it. The company says it needs an explanation of their deficiencies and significant weaknesses - there goes those darn US government procurement rules getting in the way again. Have to have an award to get a debrief; have to follow the rules to 1) file a pre-award protest within 3 days of notification or a request for debrief (10 days) then the debrief comes after an award is made. Dang rules - dang Kansas calendars or math - 3+10 = 17!

Funny - in another interview he brings up the subsidy Hawker has received; " . . . . evaluated and proven capable through a multi-year program led by the Air National Guard. Hawker Beechcraft and its partners have worked with the Air Force for two years to develop parameters for the light air support competition and invested more than $100 million preparing to meet the Air Force’s requirements, he said." Didn't Hawker make a public complaint earlier that Embrear was being subsidized by their government. The pot calling the kettle black????

Another article says he stated the communications with the USAF stopped in September. Those dang government procurement rules again. The USAF Source Selection Evaluation Board (SSEB) has questions about a proposal, bidders respond, the SSEB evaluates (and goes silent on all bidders too), then makes a decision. You don't get do-overs because the decision went against you or your proposal was weak or failed to provide the information needed. It's called being fair to all the bidders - everyone gets their chance. That's why there are strict procurement rules to be FOLLOWED.

He is correct; the company, the employees, and the taxpayers are entitled to the facts behind the decision - understanding it may be a stretch for Hawker since they can't seem to understand the procurement process - but first an award has to be made - 'aint seen one announced yet.

Mr. Boisture says the AT-6 is a better choice for the Air Force because the pilots are trained on it. But it seems the aircraft is being purchased for the Afghanistan Air Force. Oooops - didn't understand what this procurement was for.

He goes on in another interview to talk about the Super Tucano being larger with less performance. A little research shows there have been over 150 Super Tucano's sold around the world to the grand sum of ZERO AT-6's sold. Must be the dumb customers not knowing what they want. He states "We have an airplane that can go into a U.S. or U.S.-related battlefield environment and perform. … We’ve proven that." However, the Super Tucano cannot only go in, it has been in battlefield environments (with foreign air forces) unlike the AT-6. Those pesky little facts again.

Mr. Boisture also appears to state regarding the AT-6 " . . . an established supply chain already in place because of the T-6. . . . " Since so many Super Tucano's have been sold to "dumb" customers the aircraft is either 1) 100% reliable or 2) has an established supply chain in place too. Never let the facts get in your way.

Let's accept, at face value, the AT-6 may be less costly too - but if it is technically inferior as implied in the GAO dismissal of the Hawker protest then in government procurement terms it is NOT best value.

Finally, Mr. Boisture has stated the AT-6 is not certified? Wasn't this procurement was for an off-the-shelf aircraft? - guess the AT-6 is not so off-the-shelf.

This seems like a whole lot of whining by a poor loser who wants the rules bent his way and the facts ignored - and so as Mr. Bositure says they are going to take "every avenue" which now includes suing the Government. No wonder Hawker is in financial trouble . . . . . it's from chasing windmills.

Vern Edwards's picture

chinook555 is wrong about the following:

1. "When you are found to be outside of the competitive range (and it appears it was for technical reasons as stated in the GAO decision denying their protest) debriefs cannot occur until an award is made."

Wrong. Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) 15.505(a) expressly provides for debriefings to firms eliminated from the competitive range to be conducted before contract award. FAR 15.505(b) allows the contracting officer to delay the debriefing only for "compelling reasons."

2. "Also, late is late - Hawker had first 3 three days to file a pre-award protest and then 10 days to request a debrief - the GAO found they did neither for 17 days."

Wrong again. FAR 15.505(a)(1) gave Hawker three days, not ten, in which to request a debriefing once it had been notified that it had been eliminated from the competitive range. GAO bid protest regulations, 4 C.F.R. 21.2(a0(2), gave Hawker had then days to protest, not three, counting from the date that it knew or reasonably should have known of a basis for protest, whichever is earlier.

Also, chinook555 said: "You don't get do-overs because the decision went against you or your proposal was weak or failed to provide the information needed."

Well, you do if the Air Force screws up the evaluation and selection decision. Ask the people involved in Boeing's protest of the Air Tanker competition, which Boeing won handily. And it now appears the Air Force thinks it did, or at least that's the explanation if gave for terminating the contract awarded for the LAS after Hawker filed with the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. The Air Force chief of staff says that the Air Force bungled the evaluation.

observer's picture

I have no axe to grind in this; I think the Super Tucano is a fine aircraft with some key advantages over the AT-6. It could win the contest on its own merits particularly the flexibility of precision weapon loads and its ability to maneuver aerobatically with an unbalanced weapons load. It'll do the job without a doubt.

What bothers me is this letter from chinook. It has the flavor of a professional piece of writing placed here either by some PR consultant or somebody in USAF procurements covering themselves.

It is somewhat knowledgeable but with key distortions and inaccuracies. Very minor but annoying is the authors' lack of research on small points. It taints one's trust in everything else said. One such minor detail; the name Hawker comes from the UK not Canada. Hawker-Siddeley was a UK manufacturer that was taken over by BAE and then sold to Raytheon and on to Hawker Beechcraft. Perhaps the Canadian part the author is referring to is Onex partners, the Canadian half owners with Goldman Sach's.

The author also doesn't seem to understand that the Afghan Air Force has bought the T-6 to train their pilots in and the US is considering purchasing 15 more aircraft for its own use. Thus the statement by the author that Hawker "didn't understand what the procurement was for" is rather harsh. Either for the Afghan or the US procurement the idea that pilots train on the T-6 and move into the AT-6 would be valid.

The point about Embraer having 150 aircraft sold worldwide and in use by (multiple) air forces in combat is also a bit misleading. Indonesia has bought 12. Apart from that, the customer base is 5 South American countries; with Embraer's home country Brazil taking up 100 of the 150 sales. The aircraft has proved itself in combat in Colombia against the FARC (and did well after a couple of initial hiccups) but I'm not aware of the ST being used in combat in any other country. I might be wrong, but unless you count Ecuador being on the receiving end when the FARC was attacked, I think Colombia might be it in terms of combat time.

Finally, I'm not convinced that the USAF acquisition procedures are as immune to influence as the author seems to imply. The Airbus/Boeing tanker drama illustrated that practices may not always be perfectly on the up and up. It also seems to indicate that any company that is eliminated should protest...nothing to lose it seems. Do-over’s have been granted. I'd be less inclined to be suspicious if the procurement process ran its course and the ST was selected. Why the early exclusion of Hawker? If the exclusion is based on some strong flight related issues, make it public and tell Hawker to build a better aircraft. Don't risk another PR black eye for the USAF procurement system to uphold a rather arbitrary deadline.

The Super Tucano is a proven, good aircraft. Focus on that and not on somebody's mailroom. Chinook seems to spin half truths and distort facts as handily as Mr Boisture. A pox on both their houses.

Chinook555's picture

Observer:

Thank you for the nice compliment on my writing but I am neither ". . . . some PR consultant or somebody in USAF procurements covering themselves." I was trained in government contracting some 25+ years ago but thankfully I never had to write a contract. I am a citizen like you observing the government procurement process in action. . . .

You are correct on the lineage of the name Hawker - but my point was less the name than the fact Hawker Beechcraft is half Canadian owned - the name Hawker was added at the same time Onex became a half owner. Yet they wrap themselves in the flag and "protest" having a competitor.

I was unable to find the T-6 being purchased by the Afghan's. What I found was " . . . . six new Cessna 208Bs to be used for the Afghan air force undergraduate pilot training program arrived at Shindand Air Base recently."

You are correct it can be a bit misleading as what I wrote implied all these air forces were using the Super Tucano in combat. However, it is a combat aircraft. The point I was attempting to make is the Super Tucano has seen combat - the AT-6 has not.

In 2009 the sales of the Super Tucano exceeded 100. By this time the sales have probably exceeded 150 planes - but I speculate on the exact total numbers sold as this is hard to nail down. At least seven countries appear to have purchased the Super Tucano with 99 in service with Brazil and 25 in Columbia alone. Again my point was there have been zero sales of the AT-6 but many sales of the Super Tucano. Of note it appears 650 older versions of the Tucano are used by 15 air forces.

I was not implying the USAF acquisition process is immune - far from it. I was stating how I understand the process is suppose to work. I agree if the award was made it would clear things up. But, reading the Hawker court filing they have asked for an injunction of an award. In other words they are saying publically the USAF won't say why (but I suspect they were told why - the GAO dismissal of their protest gives a clue - “multiple deficiencies and significant weaknesses found in [Hawker’s] proposal make it technically unacceptable and results in unacceptable mission capability risk.”) but the USAF cannot award with an injunction being requested by Hawker. You see the Catch 22?

Early exclusion is really a finding that the Hawker proposal was outside the competitive range. Again, it is Hawker saying you won't tell us why but you are not to do so until we have our time in court. It seems they are trying to influence the procurement process through a PR campaign and via court. They want a 'do-over' but not with the rules in place. Agree with you - let the procurement process runs its course - Hawker should stop trying to thwart it.

The focus on the "mail room" was by Hawker. The cause of their angst is how they handled their mail (see the GAO decision posted online) and now want the rules bent for them because they screwed up. We do need the procurement process upheld not twisted because Hawker did not like the answer. Seems arrogant on Mr. Boisture's part. Just my opinion.

SFC John's picture

This puruposed aircraft is being purchased for who?
Can we, a nation in DEEP debt, afford to purchase ANY new weapon system of this type for ourselves, much less for another country?
The DOD killed off the OV-10 and then has spent over 2 decades trying to kill the A-10, both air craft that could of filled the roll of the purposed new aircraft, and now the want a new one?

The headline should read "American aviation company looses contract due to budget cuts".

JPE's picture

I don't think you guys are totally on track with this. The AT-6 is a proven airplane with the Greek air force although it was not titled AT-6. It has the absolute same aerodynamic characteristics as the hundreds of T-6's in the air, and the same manufacturing precision from plane to plane. The beauty of the T-6's is that you can go from plane to plane and they fly exactly the same, a BIG advantage in a trainer....and now in a combat aircraft.

The AT-6 will not replace the A-10, but is a filler between the A-10 and the RPV's. The AT-6 also has a modern fighter aircraft cockpit and a center-line FLIR which works with the 6 wing weapon pylons. It is specifically designed for the irregular warfare of the type sorely needed in the Afghan and Iraqi type theater currently being filled by the heavy, less maneuverable A-10.

S/N's AT-1 and AT-2 have performed brilliantly in fighting scenarios demonstrated before the military brass. To exclude the AT-6 from the competition just doesn't make sense....if the goal is to select the best plane for the mission scenarios.

From what I know I can't imagine who or what has happened to eliminate this entry. I don't think the true story has come out yet, but I'll bet it's going to be administrative and not technical....or someone who has a burr up their butt against Hawker-Beechcraft.

OregonBuzz's picture

Guess who is a major stockholder in the Brazilian company that may end up with this contract? Come on, it's easy. His first name is George. Look it up. It's not hard. Talk about crony capitalism. Or call it government corruption, there's not much difference.

CHRIS ROBEY's picture

I FOLLOW CAREFULLY US DOD PROCUREMENT AND AM FAMILIAR WITH THE AIRBUS/BOEING TANKER COMPETITION CASE. I HAVE NO EXPERIENCE AS A MILITARY PILOT BUT DO HAVE 30YEARS EXPERIENCE FLYING IN THE CIVIL FIELD, INCLUDING SPECIAL MISSIONS UTILISING THE LEAR 35A AND HAWKER BEECH KINGAIR 200.
IN AUSTRALIA AT THIS TIME WE HAVE A MAJOR DEBATE AS TO WHETHER TO REPLACE OUR SIX 3500 TON COLLINS CLASS ATTACK BUT CONVENTIONALLY POWERED SUBMARINES WITH TWELVE NEW LARGER AUSTRALIAN DESIGNED AND CONSTRUCTED ATTACK SUBMARINES. BY GOING THIS ROUTE WE WOULD RETAIN CRITICAL AND HARD WON DESIGN AND CONSTRUCT CAPABILITIES. ESTIMATED COST $US36BILLION.
THE MOOTED ALTERNATIVE WOULD BE TO BUY AN OFF THE SHELF EUROPEAN DESIGN WHICH WOULD BE DEFICIENT IN CAPABILITY, PARTICULARLY OPERATING RADIUS.
IT SEEMS TO ME THAT THERE IS A PARALLEL INVOLVED HERE. ADVANCED COUNTRIES MUST BACK THEIR OWN HIGH TECH CAPABILITIES, ESPECIALLY WHEN IT COMES TO AEROSPACE/DEFENCE.

Sophie's picture

In reference to OregonBuzz, for those of you who may still be guessing, the last name is Soros!

ROBERTO TONET's picture

O QUE ESTRAGOU A VENDA DA AERONAVE BRASILEIRA, FOI O PRÓPIO NOME DADO A ELA, SUPER TUCANO LEMBRA O PACÓVIO DO JOSÉ SERRA, E ISO DÁ MUITO AZAR...

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