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New Light Air Support Contest for Sierra Nevada and Hawker Beechcraft?

by: Matthew Potter
March 29, 2012

Category: Brazil, Business Line, Companies, Congress, Contract Awards, Countries, Department of Defense, development program, EADS, Embraer, Events, Federal Budget Process, Hawker Beechcraft, Military Aviation, production program, Protest, Services, Sierra Nevada, U.S. Air Force | RSS 2.0

Late last year the U.S. Air Force awarded a contract to a team of Sierra Nevada and Brazil’s Embraer to provide light attack aircraft for use by the Afghan military. The contract also had the potential for further orders to support the U.S. military and other potential foreign customers. The only other company to submit a bid was Hawker Beechcraft.

The award was controversial as the Air Force eliminated Hawker’s bid for not being in the competitive range as well as denied their attempts to protest the decision. Hawker sued in Federal Court and it came out that the contract had already been awarded to Sierra Nevada. After reviewing the process the decision was made four weeks ago to cancel the contract and begin an investigation into the contracting process.

The Air Force has stated that the investigation will conclude next week and that it focused on documentation of the decision and not the actions of either contractor. Based on the data gathered so far the Air Force has decided to reinstate Hawker, allow new proposals and may conduct another evaluation. The service also may reserve the right to conduct a whole new competition with a new request for proposals and new bids.

At the same time there are reports that Hawker may have to file for bankruptcy due to its current debt load. If that is true then the Light Air Support contract may be key to keeping the company viable.

The Air Force has struggled over the last decade with evaluating bids and awarding contracts for new aircraft. The KC-X aerial tanker took three tries before Boeing (BA) won it with a version of their 767 airliner over Europe’s EADS. The CSAR-X rescue helicopter had two different competitions with no satisfactory result and the program ended up being cancelled. This contract follows in a similar vein.

The review seems to indicate that the Air Force found enough issues with the source selection process to warrant a new competition. Hopefully this one when it is completed will be conducted in such a way to avoid protest and strife and the service can move out with buying the aircraft.

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