Air Force Cans Super Tucano Light Attack Contract

Well, the Air Force just scrapped the  $355 million contract it gave Embraer and Sierra Nevada Corporation for 20 Super Tucano light attack turboprops on Dec. 31.

Remember, the Brazilian Super T beat out Hawker Beechcraft’s AT-6 Texan in the light attack contest aimed at providing a counterinsurgency aircraft for the tiny Afghan air force.

Apparently, someone got something pretty wrong in the “documentation” for the deal. So wrong that the Air Force has contacted the Department of Justice about the matter. Uh oh.

Here are the details as reported by Marcus over at Defense News:

the U.S. Air Force plans to negate a decision to award Sierra Nevada Corp. and Embraer a $355 million contract for 20 light-attack aircraft for the Afghan military.

The move follows efforts to protest the award by Wichita, Kan.-based Hawker Beechcraft, whose AT-6 turboprop lost the bid in December. The company unsuccessfully protested the Air Force decision to the Government Accountability Office and has since filed a lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims.

Now the Air Force says it will “set aside” the contract award as of March 2 to Brazil-based Embraer and its U.S. partner, Sierra Nevada, for Super Tucano aircraft, according to Jennifer Cassidy, a service spokeswoman.

“While we pursue perfection, we sometimes fall short, and when we do, we will take corrective action,” Air Force Secretary Michael Donley said in a Feb. 28 statement on the decision.

Donley added that Air Force acquisition executive David Van Buren “is not satisfied with the quality of the documentation supporting the award decision.”

At the same time, Gen. Donald Hoffman, commander of Air Force Materiel Command, has launched an investigation into the matter.

On Feb. 28, the Air Force notified the Justice Department of its action, according to Cassidy.

Here’s Sierra Nevada’s response to the cancellation, it doesn’t say much other than, ‘we’re disappointed and we did nothing wrong.’

SPARKS, NV, February 28, 2012 –  Taco Gilbert, Ret. USAF Brigadier General, and Vice President of ISR Business Development at Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) issued the following statement in response to the announcement by the U.S. Air Force that it will set aside the contract issued in December for Light Air Support capabilities (LAS):

“We are disappointed by this decision.  We offered the U.S. Air Force a fully proven and cost-effective Light Air Support solution – and one that would be made in America, create and support American jobs and result in economic investment in the U.S.  We know that our submission fully met the requirements of the U.S Air Force Request for Proposal (RFP) and that Sierra Nevada Corporation fully complied with the RFP process as set out by the U.S. Air Force.

“Today’s announcement only further delays the effort to get critical capabilities into the hands of our men and women in uniform and our coalition partners in-theatre.  It also stymies efforts to create jobs and economic development at a time when our economy needs the boost.

“SNC and our team remain ready to get to work on this important contract. The A-29 Super Tucano, made in America, is the only plane that is capable today of meeting the requirements of the LAS mission. Nothing changes the fact that the war-fighter needs this capability immediately.”



24 Comments on "Air Force Cans Super Tucano Light Attack Contract"

  1. I wonder if some Brazilian-US trade talk/deal just broke down.

  2. Sounds more like a political decision than technical.

  3. and this is how the airforce does business…? how much money was wasted in man hours typing emails back and forth for months on end while this sad senario played out.


    the airforce has never been and, will never be interested in a cost effective "prop driven" close support aircraft. especially now that they've invested in an A-10 refurbishment program.

    i mean really, has the airforce ever bought an airplane that didnt require a logistics tail measure in thousands of tons and manhours to support…? how would they justify their budget…?

    its all a freakin scam.

  4. Of course they cancelled the contract, the Afghan military has turned against the US occupation. There's no longer any need for the planes.

  5. You guys are missing the part where this is being referred to the DOJ.

    Someone either bribed someone. Or, they altered the contract after the fact.

  6. We need to get the hell out of Afghanistan NOW. The list of “friendly” countries that we are able to pass through or over to logistically supply Afghanistan are getting fewer & fewer. There was never any serious attempt to win the war in Afghanistan. A lot of soldiers,sailors,airmen,& marines died in this fiasco. Never mind that the Air Force had NO serious intention of buying the Super Tucano or any turbo-prop COIN aircraft for that matter for any reason. Our troops & NATO needs to ride their vehicles & equipment out of Afghanistan through either Turkmenistan &/or Tajikistan,& then fly out of Kyrgyzstan,contract ferries to move ground equipment across the Caspian Sea to Georgia & Azerbaijan,& then ship them through the Black Sea back to Europe(Italy & Germany). We need to get out NOW.

  7. "Donley added that Air Force acquisition executive David Van Buren “is not satisfied with the quality of the documentation supporting the award decision.”

    What the hell is that code speak for????

  8. Want to make both kids happy? Buy a set of both. 10- 10, up the contract and 20 and 20.

    I personally can't see 20 A/C covering Afghan country very effectively at all.

    Maybe get some allied nations to chip in on the costs even. Brazil can do a lend lease to Karzai.

    mmm … I must be making this too simple lol.

  9. Lets see here it's the year 2012 and yet WW2 fighter planes had more firepower,range and better climb rate than the two planes in question here,am i missing something here?

  10. Is it finally time to fire AF acquisitions? This aircraft would have saved millions of dollars while better supporting the troops in COIN with less personnel. Too bad the leadership in question can't figure that out.

  11. My theory is that the Air Force realized they were getting ripped off. I was shocked when I first read the news at how much these planes were going to cost a piece. Something like 20 million each? There is no way a prop plane should ever cost 20 million unless it's a long range bomber. I think the avionics was the justification for the enormous price tag, but that was bullshit in my opinion. They were trying to fleece the government. Im sure HBC or whoever the other competitor was, were trying to do the same. That's probably why the Air Force is throwing a big monkey wrench into it. It's just not worth the money.

    Hire some airplane kit builder who sells this class of airplane on the commercial market for 100,000$., and give them a simple design to add weapon mount's and a two way radio. Can build these airplanes for well under 500,000 a piece.

    Defense spending is measured in billions nowadays for anything we try to do. It's shameful.

    That's my opinion, a non military civilian, who still thinks a million dollars is a TON of money.

  12. As a Brazilian i think that we also would not buy from US Boeing Co. about 160 jet SuperHonet, and look for another country that real want to do business for bothsides as strong partners. Claudio

  13. I still can't get my head around why our Air Force would go with a foreign airplane when we have had such incredible innovations in the first place.

  14. With the amount of money we send overseas in the form of "donation" per year, we could easily finance and improve our existing weapons systems, like the A-10. Spend our money here, not send it overseas rebuilding places we destroy.

  15. I know there are 56 comments above mine so I'm sure I repeating the obvious….
    The ARMY should have bought this aircraft……
    I predicted on this blog that the Air Force would can this a/c because it does NOT go fast enough….
    Just as the C-27J has been put on the shelf……
    The Army gets screwed again!


  17. Likely as not this is another of Harry Reids' pork barrel awards to his home state contributors or supporters. He is used to getting his way without question, this may stick in his craw and upset his record.

  18. political observer | February 29, 2012 at 12:11 pm | Reply

    I am glad to see that George Soros's Brizian company will not get the contract, I had reservation about awarding to the Brazilain firm. if you are not aware George Soro hass interest in a Brazilain oil exploration company the was given $2 billions to subsidize oil exploration in the mid Atlantic off of Brazil. Why didn't US firms receive the money to exploe for oil in the Gulf of Mexico??????????.

  19. What was wrong with the OV-10 Bronco?

  20. I actually suspect this is a legal issue. It sounds to me (without knowing any backstory) that the AF acquisition folks screwed up the docs (probably made some requirement ambiguous or was not clear enough that some piece was a requirement), which is what resulting in Hawker's entry being rejected. Hawker then files a claim to challenge the award, and after looking at it, the AF is having to acknowledge that they may have screwed up.

    Rather than pursuing a contract that they may ultimately lose in litigation (or via some settlement), they canned the Tucano contract.

    If this is the case, then typically the thing would be rebid with the errors in the bid docs corrected. Of course politics may take over and prevent it from being rebid, or perhaps I'm completely off track.


  21. Referring this matter to the DOJ is the tell all clue here. Someone pulled a fast one, and instead of being left to hold the bag, the AF did the right thing. We didn't need a repeat of the legal issues stemming from the tanker lease debacle a few years ago.

  22. Anyone ever heard of the buy American Act? Sure some jbs would have been created to modify it and add couple tons of avionics so some Afgan, who couldn't operate it, would screw it up.
    Rumors around Wright patt is DOJ will find another Darleen Druyun (Boeing Tanker fisaco). Some of these high paid SES types don't have the integrity of a Military type. So wait on the 6'oclock news for more.

  23. Hmm, maybe they will go for Ju-87?

  24. How many aircraft are needed for a photo-op?

    Supplementary, are there enough 'fully-trained' Afghan fliers to man them?

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