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.