WICHITA, Kan., June 17 (UPI) -- The dust hasn't settled yet in the aerospace industry's battle over the U.S. Air Force's Light Air Support contract for supply trainer/combat aircraft to Afghanistan.
Beechcraft, which has twice lost the competition to a partnership between Brazil's Embraer and the Sierra Nevada Corp. despite its official protests, is now calling on Congress to get involved.
Although its bid to win the $427 million contract for 20 aircraft has been shot down again in its appeal to the U.S. General Accounting Office, acquisition of Brazilian planes should be restricted to just the initial order under the contract.
"It is now time for Congress to step in and put an end to this flawed acquisition process and limit the purchase of the Brazilian aircraft to only that of the Afghanistan requirement covered by the first delivery order of the LAS contract," it said late last week.
"Beechcraft remains confident that the AT-6, which was rated "Exceptional" by the Air Force, was the better choice for LAS and is the best aircraft for U.S. partner nations in need of light attack aircraft. The company is certain that future procurements, including those run by other governments, will validate this rating and result in the selection of the AT-6 for counter-insurgency and irregular warfare missions."
The statement came in advance of an expected GAO release of its decision on Beechcraft's petition for additional review of the U.S. Air Force decision.
The Air Force Feb. 27 gave the contract to Embraer-SNC for Embraer's A-29 Super Tucano, a small turboprop aircraft for military pilot training and close air support by nations around the world. The USAF had awarded the team the contract earlier but Beechcraft, alleging "bias," protested and the Air Force reviewed its decision and reopened bidding.
The result was a delay of a year or more in a program the military considers a priority given that U.S. forces are preparing to withdraw from Afghanistan and the urgent need for the aircraft by Afghan forces.
When the Air Force chose the A-29 for the second time, Beechcraft protested again but the military tapped an override provision in the appeal process and stuck by its guns.
Embraer-SNC, promised in their bid that the aircraft would be assembled in the United States and work would involve components and other supply-chain items from U.S. companies. It has already leased facilities in Florida and officially opened an assembly line for the aircraft.
"It is deeply distressing that the Air Force selected a more expensive, less capable, foreign-manufactured airplane with weapons and systems unfamiliar to, and outside the control of, the United States military," Beechcraft said in its new statement.
"We have known that the requirements for this procurement were written to favor the competition's aircraft. During this protest, we learned that the GAO's review looks only at whether the Air Force followed its process, but not whether the process itself was actually correct or appropriate.
"We question whether the Embraer aircraft with its foreign-made weapons can be certified to U.S. military standards in time to provide the mission-capable aircraft per the contract."