Beechcraft slams GAO, Air Force over Embraer LAS contract

The U.S. Air Force's selection of the Light Air Support (LAS) aircraft has come under fire. Photo: In this file photo, defense officials review the Beechcraft AT-6C at a weapons conference in 2010. (U.S. Air Force)

WASHINGTON, June 13, 2013 – In an official statement, Beechcraft Corporation raised sharp concerns over the U.S. Government’s decision to award the Light Air Support (LAS) program contract to Embraer, a Brazil-based aerospace manufacturer.

“It is deeply distressing that the Air Force selected a more expensive, less capable, foreign-manufactured airplane with weapons and systems unfamiliar to, and outside the control of, the United States military,” Beechcraft said in its official press release. “We have known that the requirements for this procurement were written to favor the competition’s aircraft. During this protest, we learned that the GAO’s review looks only at whether the Air Force followed its process, but not whether the process itself was actually correct or appropriate. We question whether the Embraer aircraft with its foreign-made weapons can be certified to U.S. military standards in time to provide the mission-capable aircraft per the contract.”

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The U.S. Air Force had announced in December of 2011 it would be purchasing 20 of the Embraer A-29 propeller attack planes for the Afghan government, a deal reportedly worth some $427.4 million, through the Sierra Nevada Corporation. In an AFNS news story released last year, NATO Air Training Command-Afghanistan commander Brigadier General Tim Ray was reported as describing the aircraft as “the most kinetic, most offensive aircraft [the Afghan air force] will have, and I’m sure a big morale boost to the troops on the ground when they see it overhead.”

Beechcraft, which currently produces the T-6 Texan II training aircraft, had beaten rival Embraer’s Super Tucano in 1995 for the U.S. Air Force’s Joint Primary Aircraft Training System (JPATS) competition. The AT-6 attack variant which Beechcraft offered for the LAS contract differs from the training version by featuring significantly higher engine power, advanced weapon and flight control systems and specialized sensors.

The company press release added, “Beechcraft remains confident that the AT-6, which was rated “Exceptional” by the Air Force, was the better choice for LAS and is the best aircraft for U.S. partner nations in need of light attack aircraft. The company is certain that future procurements, including those run by other governments, will validate this rating and result in the selection of the AT-6 for counterinsurgency and irregular warfare missions.”


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Danny de Gracia

Dr. Danny de Gracia is a political scientist and a former senior adviser to the Human Services and International Affairs committees at the Hawaii State Legislature. From 2011-2013 he served as an elected municipal board member in Waipahu. As an expert in international relations theory, military policy, political psychology and economics, Danny has advised numerous policymakers and elected officials and his opinions have been featured worldwide. Now working on his first novel, Danny resides on the island of Oahu.

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