The Air Force Tuesday cancelled its contract for a Light Air Support aircraft with Sierra Nevada Industries and Embraer, will reopen competitive bidding, and has announced an investigation into the way the previous bid was handled. The Air Force raised eyebrows in December when it kicked Hawker Beechcraft's AT6B out of the running for the $1 billion contract. That left only Sierra Nevada's assembled-in-Florida version of the Embraer Super Tucano in the competition and the contract was awarded a few days later. "While we pursue perfection, we sometimes fall short, and when we do we will take corrective action," Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley said in a statement. Donley would not say why the contract was overturned, only that senior officials were not satisfied with the documentation supporting the award. Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., said a sudden reversal like this is rare and significant. "The Air Force does not do that lightly," Pompeo told The Washington Post. "This is highly unusual, which suggests that there is going to be a very broad re-look of the entire process."
Of course, Hawker Beech welcomed the news. The company took the government to court to challenge the procedural process of the bid and that case is still ongoing. Hawker Beech Corp. Chairman Bill Boisture has been vocal in his battle with the government over the bid and said Tuesday's decision was welcome news. "We commend the Air Force for this decision and we believe strongly it is the right thing for the Air Force, the taxpayers and the people of Hawker Beechcraft," he said in a statement. Embraer, meanwhile, seemed taken aback by the move. "Embraer remains committed to offer the best solution to the U.S. Air Force and will await further clarification on the subject to decide next steps, in consultation with its partner, [Sierra Nevada Corporation]," the company said in a brief statement. Sierra Nevada spokesman Taco Gilbert told the Post the decision was a "big disappointment."