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Super Tucano beats out AT-6 for Afghan Light Air Support tender

The US Air Force has awarded Sierra Nevada and partner Embraer a $427 million firm fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract to supply the Afghan air force with 20 Embraer A-29 Super Tucano light attack aircraft. The award brings to a close a long-running battle between Sierra Nevada/Embraer and Beechcraft to secure the Light Air Support tender.

"The A-29 Super Tucano with its proven track record is exactly what's needed for the LAS program where the mission is critical and time is short. We will deliver a superior product, on-time and on-budget," says Taco Gilbert, vice president of integrated tactical solutions for Sierra Nevada's intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance business.

 

 Embraer

Luiz Carlos Aguiar, president of Embraer Defense and Security, whose company has been trying to secure a foothold in the lucrative US defense-aerospace market, pledges to increase the company's presence inside the United States. "Through this contract with SNC [Sierra Nevada Corporation], we will increase our investment in the United States by creating new jobs and supporting American businesses," he says.

Beechcraft, which bid an AT-6 attack version of its Texan II turboprop trainer, expressed its disappointment at the loss and did not rule out once again protesting the award. Beechcraft, which lost out to Embraer during the original LAS contract award at the end of 2011, had previously sued the US government over that award. Ultimately, the USAF was forced to rerun the tender, but once again the Super Tucano has come out ahead of the AT-6.

"We are disappointed that our proposal was not chosen. We will meet with the USAF for a full debrief of the award and determine our next steps forward at that time," Beechcraft says. "Although the US Air Force did not select the AT-6 Light Attack Aircraft for the Light Air Support program, Beechcraft is committed to advancing the aircraft's capabilities and continues to pursue additional close air support opportunities."

The contract loss comes at a critical time for the Wichita-based airframer. Beechcraft emerged from bankruptcy protection only a week ago, and cited winning the LAS programme as a critical near-term goal.

According, to Sierra Nevada and Embraer, the Super Tucano will be built in Jacksonville, Florida. Embraer's facility at the Jacksonville airport is already being readied for the aircraft's assembly line. "The LAS contract will support more than 1,400 American jobs, reflecting the large US supplier base," the companies say in a joint statement.

Under the terms of the contract, the two companies will supply 20 Embraer A-29 Super Tucano light attack aircraft, one basic aviation training device, one flight training device, six mission planning stations, and six mission debrief systems for the first delivery order. The companies will also have to provide long lead spares parts, flight certification to USAF military type certification standards, and data rights. "The maximum amount that can be ordered under this contract is $950,000,000," the Pentagon contract award reads.

The USAF wants deliveries of these first 20 aircraft completed by April 2015, but follow work could run through 26 February, 2019.

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