Rhetoric Heats up in Embraer vs. Beechcraft Contract Drama

Sierra Nevada has a big, unusual complaint about the competition

Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC), which has entered the Embraer A-29 Super Tucano in the United States Air Force’s Light Air Support competition, is crying foul over the latest developments in what is proving to be an ongoing drama with elements of international intrigue. To be sure, one of SNC’s complaints is an en eye-opener.

To refresh your memory, Sierra Nevada actually won the competition last December, with the Air Force selecting the Super Tucano. Hawker Beechcraft Corporation (HBC) officially protested, however, claiming that they weren’t given proper notification. The DoD eventually accepted the protest, threw out the earlier award to Sierra Nevada and reopened the competition.

On Wednesday Sierra Nevada filed suit in federal court asking to have its original award reinstated claiming that the restarting of the competition was an “extreme response” to what amounted to “paperwork errors” on the part of the Air Force.

Moreover, the company is claiming that the new competition is flawed, as it allows not a retrial of the original contestants but goes too far in allowing modifications made to HBC’s entrant, the AT-6B, to be taken into account. It also maintains that Hawker Beechcraft was allowed to “perform development and testing operations on its AT-6 aircraft with millions of dollars of Air Force Title 10 funding during the ongoing evaluation process,” which SNC claims continues to be the the case.

Perhaps the most troubling claim is that the new competition will conclude before the Air Force has had a chance to test fly the production version of the winning entry, something that SNC admits is not unprecedented but which it claims will introduce great risk into the acquisition process if the HBC entrant is awarded the contract, as the AT-6B, claims SNC, is still in development.

Hawker Beechcraft declined to comment on Sierra Nevada’s lawsuit except to say that it “continues working hard to meet the Air Force’s needs” with its entry.

The LAS contract is worth as much as $1 billion over the life of the contract.

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