After delays of nearly a year, the U.S. Air Force announced yesterday that it selected Sierra Nevada Corp. and its partner, Embraer Defense and Security, for its light air support program (LAS). After a lengthy rebidding process, the Air Force in essence confirmed its original choice of the A-29 Super Tucano, built by Brazilian airplane manufacturer Embraer.
The rebidding was prompted by a late-2011 protest from U.S. manufacturer Hawker Beechcraft, which had promoted its own AT-6 as a candidate for the initial $427.5 million contract. In a statement following the award announcement, the new Beechcraft Corp. expressed disappointment that its proposal was not chosen, saying it will meet with the Air Force “for a full debrief of the award and determine our next steps forward at that time.”
The initial contract calls for the purchase of 20 Embraer Super Tucanos, which will go to Afghanistan where they will be used to provide light air support, reconnaissance and training. “We are ready to begin production immediately,” said Taco Gilbert, v-p of integrated tactical solutions at Sierra Nevada. “We’ve been ready for a long time.” The A-29s for the USAF will be assembled in Jacksonville, Fla.
The first deployment of the A-29 was originally scheduled for April 2013. Now, said Gilbert, “It might be the summer of 2014.”