Air Force Rejects Beechcraft LAS Protest

Embraer instructed to start work on Florida Super Tucano factory.

A-29 Super Tucano

A-29 Super Tucano

Embraer is moving ahead with plans to build A-29 Super Tucano light attack airplanes in Florida after the Air Force rejected Beechcraft's latest protest of the contract award.

Embraer announced that it has signed a 10-year lease on a 40,000-square-foot hangar in Jacksonville, where the A-29 Super Tucanos for the U.S. Air Force Light Air Support program will be assembled.

The Air Force directed Embraer to ignore Beechcraft’s newest protest, rejecting the Wichita airframer’s move after consulting with the White House.

The unusual end-around has Beech executives crying foul.

“By invoking this override procedure to outsource American defense jobs, the definitions of national security and the protection of the U.S. aerospace industrial base have been turned upside down,” Beechcraft said in a statement. “Moreover, the Air Force’s decision to bypass the normal [General Accounting Office] review process deprives the American taxpayer of transparent answers to legitimate and well-documented questions to what has been a very opaque LAS acquisition.”

Embraer and its U.S. partner Sierra Nevada Corp. won the $427.5 million contract for 20 Super Tucanos for Afghan counter-insurgency operation after a prolonged bidding process that began in 2011. Beechcraft claims the Brazilian airplanes will be much more expensive than its own AT-6 Texan II single-engine turboprops. The Air Force, meanwhile, says the Super Tucano is the right airplane for the mission.