Hawker Beechcraft will take action against the US Air Force for dismissing the AT-6 Texan II from a selection process only days before the scheduled award of the light air support (LAS) contract.
The company will "request [a] review" after being informed in a letter of the AT-6's elimination, according to a statement issued by the US-based airframer. As of 20 November, the company was still considering its legal options.
© Hawker Beechcraft
The statement is a shocking turn in a two-year-old competition between the AT-6 and the Embraer/Sierra Nevada EMB-314 Super Tucano, which are competing to win the first in a series of contract awards for counter-insurgency fighters. These fighters would be donated to the USAF's partners, starting with Afghanistan.
Beechcraft claims its six-member industry team, including engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney Canada and US-based Lockheed Martin and L-3 Communications, spent more than $100 million preparing the AT-6 to meet the USAF's requirements for the LAS contract.
"We are both confounded and troubled by [the] decision", Beechcraft said.
The USAF declined to comment on the company's statement or confirm the status of its proposal for the LAS contract. New information will be released after the selection process is completed and a contract awarded in late November or early December.
Beechcraft's statement also appeared to take the Embraer team by surprise. The Brazil-based company said it had not received any new information from the USAF about the status of its bid.
Embraer has also invested heavily to win the prized LAS order from the USAF. The company has already leased a manufacturing facility in Jacksonville, Florida, in anticipation of an order.
The USAF plans to award the LAS contract to acquire 15 counter-insurgency aircraft, which will be transferred to the Afghan air force. Other "partner countries" could receive similar deals if the USAF's funding for counter-insurgency aircraft is preserved.
The programme was also designed to include a follow-on order for 20 aircraft that would be used as trainers by the USAF, preparing the instructors that would be sent to train the partner air forces.
But the US Senate armed services committee raised new objections to those proposals earlier this year, proposing to eliminate funding for the air force's standalone counter-insurgency trainer squadron.
Embraer has described the total market for the winner of the LAS contract as being worth $1.5 billion.
Source: Flight International