June 14, 2013
By Alton K. Marsh
The Government Accountability Office has tossed out a protest from Beechcraft Defense Co. of a light air support contract awarded earlier to Sierra Nevada, using Brazilian-made Tucano aircraft. The first 20 aircraft are to be delivered to the Afghanistan air force starting next year. The contract is potentially worth $950 million.
In denying the protest, the GAO said, "GAO denied Beechcraft’s protest after finding that the Air Force reasonably concluded that Beechcraft’s proposed approach presented a high risk that its aircraft would not achieve a requirement of the solicitation within the requisite time period. GAO also denied Beechcraft’s challenges to the Air Force evaluation of Sierra Nevada’s proposed aircraft, as well as Beechcraft’s arguments that the Air Force made an improper tradeoff decision by selecting Sierra Nevada’s higher-priced, but lower-risk, proposal."
Beechcraft officials reacted angrily to the decision.
Beechcraft officials had this to say: “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. 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.
“It is now time for Congress to step in and put an end to this flawed acquisition process and limit the purchase of the Brazilian aircraft to only that of the Afghanistan requirement covered by the first delivery order of the LAS contract.
“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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