The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) today rejected an attempt by Beechcraft to overturn a controversial, $427 million contract awarded to a Sierra Nevada/Embraer team to supply 20 A-29 Super Tucanos to the Afghan air force.
The GAO decision appears to complete the final chapter of a three-year acquisition saga over the light air support (LAS) contract in which the US Air Force was forced to re-compete the original deal awarded to the Sierra Nevada/Embraer team after discovering undisclosed errors in the documentation process.
The Sierra Nevada/Embraer team won the second competition again last February, although the value of the deal had increased by 25% since the previous award in 2011.
Beechcraft filed a protest with the GAO less than two weeks after the contract award. In the previous competition, Beechcraft appealed the GAO's decision with the Court of Federal Claims, but this time the company appears to have accepted the rejection, albeit conditionally.
Beechcraft is now calling on US lawmakers to intervene by preventing the USAF from awarding follow-on deals involving the A-29 to other countries besides Afghanistan.
"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 US partner nations in need of light attack aircraft," the company says.
The LAS programme was conceived as a means for the USAF to equip certain allies with a counter-insurgency fighter. The USAF pays for the aircraft to be delivered and provides the partner country with training and access to sensors and weapons.
The Sierra Nevada/Embraer team and the Beechcraft AT-6 were the only bidders for the award. The competition grew heated as Beechcraft attacked the A-29's Brazilian roots, despite the heritage of the AT-6 as a licensed derivative of the Switzerland-based Pilatus PC-9.
"Today's decision is a win for the American warfighters and our allies in Afghanistan who urgently need this light air support capacity to fulfill our mission there," says Taco Gilbert, vice-president of integrated tactical solutions for SNC's intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance business area.
The Sierra Nevada/Embraer team plans to deliver the first A-29 to Afghanistan in mid-2014.