The US Court of Federal Claims denied Beechcraft's lawsuit seeking to overturn a US Air Force decision to bypass a stop work order on the Afghan Light Air Support (LAS) contract on 19 March.

Beechcraft had filed suit in federal court on 21 March after the USAF ordered Sierra Nevada and partner Embraer to continue working on the LAS programme despite a protest to the Government Accountability Office (GAO). Normally, a protest lodged with the GAO automatically freezes work on a contract, however the USAF says that the LAS programme is both "time sensitive" and "crucial" and therefore it had no choice but to proceed.

"While we reluctantly accept the court's opinion, we will continue to contest this award through the GAO and as a programme of record for building partnership capacity with other nations that desire Light Air Support aircraft," Beechcraft says. "We remain committed to providing a superior aircraft for this mission that also protects national security interests, taxpayer dollars and preserves jobs in the US aerospace manufacturing sector."

The USAF chose the Sierra Nevada/Embraer A-29 Super Tucano over Beechcraft's AT-6 on 27 February to supply Afghanistan with 20 light attack aircraft. The contact is worth $427 million.

"Today's decision ensures that work will continue uninterrupted on the LAS contract and that we will be able to deliver these aircraft in mid-2014," Sierra Nevada and Embraer jointly say. "Delivering the LAS aircraft on schedule is essential to the United States' building partnership capacity in Afghanistan, as it allows our troops to wind down US involvement there."

The USAF could not immediately comment on the court ruling.

Source: Flight International