Air Force Cancels LAS Contract; New Competition Likely

 - March 2, 2012, 10:45 AM
The U.S. Air Force has canceled its contract with Sierra Nevada for the Embraer A-29 Super Tucano and initiated an investigation of the contract award under the Light Air Support program. (Photo: Sierra Nevada)

Citing the need for “corrective action,” the U.S. Air Force canceled its $355 million contract with Sierra Nevada for an initial 20 Embraer A-29 Super Tucanos under the Light Air Support (LAS) program. Competing contractor Hawker Beechcraft had challenged the award in federal court. Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley said, “Air Force senior acquisition executive David Van Buren is not satisfied with the quality of the documentation supporting the award decision.”

The Air Force notified Wichita-based Hawker Beechcraft in November that the AT-6 had been excluded from the LAS bidding process. Hawker Beechcraft then asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to review the decision. The GAO dismissed the protest on December 22. That same day, the Air Force awarded the LAS contract to Sierra Nevada. Hawker Beechcraft filed suit against the government December 28 in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Washington, D.C. The Air Force issued a stop-work order to Sierra Nevada on January 4.

The impact of the Air Force decision on the LAS program to supply the Afghan air force with a light attack aircraft was not immediately known. In a brief statement February 28, the Air Force said it would investigate the award. A court filing by the government stated that the Air Force would reopen the competition for the LAS requirement. Kansas Republican Rep. Mike Pompeo, one of more than 20 lawmakers who wrote the Air Force after Hawker Beechcraft was excluded from the competition, said the Air Force “entered into a contract with a supplier and they’ve now had to cancel that contract. That is evidence alone that the process was a failure.”

Hawker Beechcraft and industrial partners say they have invested more than $100 million in the light attack derivative of the T-6 trainer, which has been evaluated by the Air National Guard in a congressionally funded program. There have been 725 T-6s built, and “the graduation to the AT-6 would be a natural progression,” the company says.

Embraer and Sierra Nevada expressed disappointment with the announcement. Taco Gilbert, Sierra Nevada vice president of ISR business development, said the company’s LAS submission “fully met the requirements of the U.S. Air Force request for proposal.”

Hawker Beechcraft Corp. chairman Bill Boisture said, “This LAS competition is about much more than 20 aircraft for Afghanistan or a billion-dollar contract…it is about the U.S. Air Force’s ability to build relationships with U.S. partner nations around the world for a generation to come.”

Comments

Pierre Bernstein's picture

This seems to be a political and biased decision based on Hawker Beechcraft's inability to accept defeat. Embraer has a better aircraft at this moment but Hawker won't accept proven facts.
This is not the first time that such a distorted, to say the least, decision is made by the US Government. Hopefully Brazil will find adequate means to retalliate.

NOTE:Please correct my e-mail address which is pierreaero@uol.com.br

A.L.Mirri's picture

Embraer use most of his components Made in USA, and not only for SuperTucano, but also for all the commercial and business jets it manufactures. The trade balance between Embraer and USA is widely favorable to USA, it means the amount of technological components the Brazilian company buys from USA is superior to the amount of money it makes by exporting planes to USA. So, when Embraer exports a job to a third country, it's like its exporting also American-made products. It surely won't be the case when the Chinese will enter the game of aircraft making. Brazil has been a traditional importer of American made defense systems since ages, a trustable commercial partner. Brazil is one of the largest markets for big airliners made by Boeing Co, and is a growing market differently from the north-american, european and japanese ones. Embraer has opened a high-tech manufacturing plant in Florida in 2010, while Canadian-American companies like Hawker-Beechcraft have been transfering production to Mexico.
But, unfortunatly, despite all its serious background as partner, Brazil has been treated as an enemy by US government, in an unfair game for supplying Light Atack aircrafts to USA. Shameful and not wise step from American side, as the retaliation will come soon and Boeing Corp. is not likely to become happy with the outcome. Not wise decision from Mr. Obama, not a ethic behaviour for Air Force, not a good example for the world of just and fair trade. Unfortunately I must agree with Mr. Joe Leahy that USA could be renamed as Banana States of America: http://blogs.ft.com/beyond-brics/2012/03/02/embraer-doing-business-in-th...

A.L.Mirri's picture

Embraer use most of his components Made in USA, and not only for SuperTucano, but also for all the commercial and business jets it manufactures. The trade balance between Embraer and USA is widely favorable to USA, it means the amount of technological components the Brazilian company buys from USA is superior to the amount of money it makes by exporting planes to USA. So, when Embraer exports an aircraft to a third country, it sells also American-made products. Brazil has been a traditional importer of American made defense systems since ages, a trustable commercial partner. Brazil is one of the largest markets for big airliners made by Boeing Co, and is a growing market differently from the north-american, european and japanese ones. Embraer has opened a high-tech manufacturing plant in Florida in 2010, while Canadian-American companies like Hawker-Beechcraft have been transfering production to Mexico.
But, unfortunatly, despite all its serious background as partner, Brazil has been treated as an enemy by US government, in an unfair game for supplying Light Atack aircrafts to USA. Shameful and not wise step from American side, as the retaliation will come soon and Boeing Corp. is not likely to become happy with the outcome. Not wise decision from Mr. Obama, not a ethic behaviour to expect from Air Force, not a good example of fair trade for the world. Unfortunately I must agree with Mr. Joe Leahy that USA could be renamed as Banana States of America: http://blogs.ft.com/beyond-brics/2012/03/02/embraer-doing-business-in-th...

Inigo Guevara's picture

Interestingly to how Hawker transferred production of some components to its subsidiary in Mexico, the Mexican Air Force has selected the T-6 and ordered an initial 10in a $156 m contract (first examples arrived in Mexico this week from Kansas), plus a follow on order for 20 AT-6, with an eventual requirement for up to 88, which could mean about a total of about $1.4-1.8 billion... so geo-politics, industrial participation, and tons of money remain the big players in the decision-making process. I doubt that a decision on LAS will be done before the November 2012 elections.

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