Light Attack Contract In Limbo

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Hawker Beechcraft, which is suing the Air Force, over its plan to go with a Brazilian aircraft for its proposed light attack and support aircraft, has ramped up the publicity campaign to get back in the running. At a news conference on Friday, Hawker Beech CEO Bill Boisture told reporters the company's AT-6B was tossed out of the bidding improperly in favor of the Embraer Super Tucano, which is being developed with Sparks, Nev.-based Sierra Nevada Corp. "We believe there's been a flaw in the acquisition process," Boisture was quoted by the Wichita Eagle as saying. Boisture was accompanied by Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., who also said the process was flawed in that the Air Force and the Government Accountability Office have used procedural arguments to avoid explaining the decision and delayed the announcement of the contract award to Embraer by a week when it should have been made public the same day. "That is highly unusual," Pompeo said. The increasing pressure has caught the attention of Air Force brass and they've put the contract award on hold.

On Wednesday, the Air Force halted all work on the project, citing Hawker Beech's lawsuit but predicting a speedy resumption of the deal, which will see the Super Tucanos assembled in Jacksonville from parts made in Brazil. "The Air Force is confident in the merits of the contract award decision and we expect the litigation will be quickly resolved," Lt. Col Wesley P. Miller told The Associated Press on Thursday. "We are trying to do everything we can to do this right and make sure that it is done because the thing to keep in mind is that this contract is a wartime support contract for a partner in conflict -- and so involves a sense of urgency and mission accomplishment." The aircraft are destined for Afghanistan where they will be used in a counterinsurgency role.