The US Air Force has told the Sierra Nevada/Embraer team to continue working on the light air support (LAS) programme unless ordered not to by the Court of Federal Claims due to a new appeal filed by the losing bidder for the contract.

Beechcraft filed a lawsuit on 21 March in an attempt to force the USAF to freeze work on the effort to supply Afghanistan with 20 A-29 Super Tucano light turboprop attack aircraft. Beechcraft's bid based on the AT-6 Texan II was rejected by the USAF on 27 February.

Beechcraft lodged a protest against the award with the Government Accountability Office, but the USAF invoked a rare legal mechanism to allow the winning contractor to continue working to deliver the aircraft on schedule while the protest is considered.

The new lawsuit in the Court of Federal Claims seeks to override the USAF's decision to continue working on the programme while the protest remains active.

The USAF says it remains "confident" in the process used to decide that the Sierra Nevada/Embraer team won the contract, and defended its decision to keep the team working on what it called a "time-critical" contract.

"In accordance with the protest process, the override to the stay of performance was issued to honour a critical and time-sensitive US commitment to provide air support capability to the Afghanistan Air Force," the air force says.

Asked for comment, Embraer, which developed the Super Tucano as a dedicated counterinsurgency aircraft, says it is continuing work to deliver the aircraft to the USAF. "We are continuing to move forward with our contractual obligations to support the LAS (Light Air Support) programme," the Embraer says.

Source: Flight International