Hawker Beechcraft Continues To Challenge Air Force Choice for LAS

 - February 22, 2012, 3:05 PM
The AT-6 by Hawker Beechcraft sports a mission system lifted from the A-10C Thunderbolt II and a sensor system from the MC12W Liberty aircraft currently deployed in Afghanistan.

In what turned out to be his last days as CEO of Hawker Beechcraft, Bill Boisture cranked up to thunderous his company’s response to the Air Force’s awarding its light air support contract to Sierra Nevada and its partner, Brazilian OEM Embraer.

When the Air Force announced it had picked Embraer’s Super Tucano over Hawker Beechcraft’s AT-6 in a competition for what is potentially a $1 billion contract, Boisture was candid: “We were caught completely by surprise when we were excluded from the bidding,” he said, describing the process as “yet another example of the Air Force’s lack of transparency through this competition.”

Hawker Beechcraft protested to the Government Accountability Office but was rebuffed. The company then asked the U.S. Court of Claims to hear its case. The court agreed, and the Air Force put a stop-work order on the process, pending a decision by the court as to whether, as Hawker Beechcraft claims, the selection process was legally flawed. A decision by the court is expected in mid-March.

More recently, Boisture further cranked up the volume, first with an open letter to Hawker Beechcraft employees and colleagues in the business aviation industry.

Listing arguments as much against the Super Tucano as in favor of Hawker Beechcraft’s own AT-6, Boisture urged readers to go to Hawker Beechcraft’s website–www.missionreadyAT-6.com–“and use the already prepared letters to let our leaders know what you want done.”

Less than a week later, Boisture responded to the State of the Union Address by President Obama with a second letter, singling out the President’s claim that “he wants to protect American manufacturing jobs and called for more highly skilled jobs in the U.S. and for more products to be made in America.”

If this is true, wrote Boisture, “then the actions of the U.S. Air Force are in direct conflict with those objectives.” He claimed:

  • The AT-6 is the best airplane for the LAS mission and is made in America.
  • Awarding this contract to a foreign company jeopardizes 800 jobs in Kansas and Arkansas and more than 600 jobs in 38 other states.
  • The U.S. airplane is estimated to be about 25 percent less expensive to acquire and dramatically more cost effective to maintain.

Embraer’s U.S. partner, Sierra Nevada, emphatically refutes the Hawker Beechcraft claims. According to the Sparks, Nev.-based electronics provider, Embraer will build a plant in Florida where it will hire 50 skilled U.S. workers to assemble the Super Tucano. The company also notes that the work will support another 1,200 people employed by 71 direct and indirect vendors and suppliers in 21 states in the U.S. In addition, 88 percent of the firms providing components for the Super Tucano are in compliance with the “Buy America Act,” Sierra Nevada claims.

One source at Sierra Nevada questioned Hawker Beechcraft’s own loyalty to the U.S. market, asking how much of the labor going into the AT-6 would actually be done at the company’s Mexico facilities by Mexican workers. By contrast, she said, “If the contract grows as expected, Embraer might actually import the entire Super Tucano [assembly process] to the U.S.”

Sierra Nevada also claims that the Super Tucano is battle proven by air forces of six nations over the last eight years and has accumulated 18,000 total hours without a single combat loss.

In his appeal to the Obama administration, Boisture nevertheless emphasized a need to keep the contract in the U.S. The President, said Boisture, spoke of rewarding innovation and hard work, as well as maintaining a strong manufacturing base and military infrastructure. “Yet the administration’s decision to outsource this contract to a foreign company defeats those goals,” he concluded.

Comments

A.L.Mirri's picture

USA has been exporting aircrafts since ages, none of its clients refuses the planes under such nationalistic allegation. Brazil has always been one of the largest markets for American-made aircraft, even the military ones. Now a Brazilian company won the compation in USA by strictly following the rules established, but now it's being refused to suply the airplane. Brazilian authorities are just awaiting the result of this judicial case in order to position itself in reciprocity basis. Boeing is ultimately worried about the damage the loser Hawker Beechcraft may induce to its business in one of the fastest growing countries. So far this case is showing to the world USA as a very dishonest country that sells technological products all over the world but want to protect itself even in a mere USD 300 million contract!!! Not a wise thing from American side!

JG Boivin's picture

BHC certainly has the right to be ticked at possibly losing what should be US business, and Embraer has the right to compete for business if they want. I see no problem there. No one out side of the UASF and BHC is privy to all the details, but it seems to me that the problem lies with Air Force politics and a flawed procurement system.... are they truly trying to support US manufacturers first or do they even care ? Remember when they tried to get a tanker from Airbus instead of Boeing ? WTH is going on in DC?

Trans-N-Acq.'s picture

The AF is not completely at fault. It is difficult to know the true reasons for the decisions that are made. Regardless, politics is always the foundation of the decision. This one is not as difficult. Embraer + Sierra Nevada (Sparks, Nevada) = Harry Reid! Therefore, I don't blame the AF, but Harry Reid.

don's picture

The HBC outsourcing of jobs to Mexico bears further scrutiny, before we are taken in by their flag waving.

Airbus has kept the A330 P to F conversion in Europe (though they have succumbed to the 'outsourcing' disease somewhat, assembling A-320s in China) whilst Boeing made certain every 747-400BCF was converted in Asia or Israel. I recall reading an Engine Alliance-powered A380 has more US dollar content by percentage than a 'Boeing' 787.

The ruination of the US's last industrial crown jewel, aviation, continues apace, thanks to greedy shareholders and CEO's (and a pig-ignorant electorate).

Bloody treasonous IMHO.

Trans-N-Acq.'s picture

don - you are spot-on!

Barry 's picture

Embraer has created and/or saved hundreds of jobs in the US. They recently started manufacturing executive jets in the US, and will continue expanding US manufacturing jobs. I honestly believe that they won the contract because they offer a more compelling product.

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