November 22, 2011
By Alton K. Marsh
Hawker Beechcraft officials say their Beechcraft AT–6 single-engine turboprop has been excluded from lucrative competition by the U.S. Air Force for a light attack/armed reconnaissance aircraft. The letter gave no explanation, and the Air Force refused a subsequent request from Hawker Beechcraft officials for a debrief on its reasons, Hawker Beechcraft said. The prize sought is a five-year, nearly $1 billion contract.
The Wichita Eagle quoted analysts as saying the contract was not critical to the company’s future, but would have helped in retaining employees. Hawker Beechcraft had worked on the program two years and, along with five partners, had invested a total for all the partners of $100 million to meet Air Force requirements. The partners are Lockheed Martin, CMC Esterline, Pratt and Whitney Canada, L-3 Wescam, and CAE.
The Air Force has not announced a winner, but it is believed that the only viable candidate remaining is the Embraer-314 Super Tucano, a single-engine turboprop used for training and reconnaissance in Brazil. It is still in production, with deliveries scheduled for Indonesia in 2012. If chosen, Embraer plans to assemble and test the aircraft in a renovated hangar at Jacksonville, Fla., where 50 people would be hired.
The Tucano is used by seven air forces around the world, and can carry bombs along with a .50-caliber machine gun.
A winner of the competition was originally scheduled to be chosen in June, but that has slipped.
AOPA Pilot Senior Editor Alton Marsh has been a pilot since 1970 and has an airline transport pilot certificate and instrument and multiengine flight instructor certificates, aerobatic training, and a commercial seaplane certificate.
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