Home » News » Acquisition Reform » Air Force May Reopen Light Attack Contest

Air Force May Reopen Light Attack Contest

by John Reed on March 26, 2012

Well, after the Air Force cancelled its award to Brazil-based Embraer for 20 Super Tucano light attack planes, the Pentagon has apparently told Brazilian officials that there will be another chance to supply the Pentagon with turboprop-driven attack aircraft.

Late last month, the Air Force canceled a relatively small contract — $355 million —  with Embraer and Sierra Nevada Corporation for 20 Super Ts, after hinting that the service made some errors in the contracting process.

Remember, the Super T beat out Hawker Beechcraft’s AT-6 in the Air Force’s light attack contest that was aimed at helping build up the nascent Afghan air force.

It looks like the two firms will have the chance to go at it again, according to an AFP:

The United States has told Brazilian aircraft maker Embraer that it will reopen bidding for 20 light support planes after canceling a contract with the company, a Brazilian minister said Friday.

“They did not give official notice, but informally, they said: ‘Wait for another tender, we are expecting a new tender,’” Industry and Trade Minister Fernando Pimentel told journalists.

Washington assured Embraer that “there will be another round, there will be another tender,” he added.

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{ 69 comments… read them below or add one }

Sgt_Buffy March 26, 2012 at 11:59 am

So, we're supplying aircraft for Afghanistan? I think We could use some Light Attack aircraft ourselves.

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DMAN March 29, 2012 at 4:32 pm

Why again are we letting another country build something we can build and keep our $$ invested in what has the greatest return….. US as in make it here in the USA and then sale it. Hawker is going bankrupt now, do to poor management and our great government out sourcing

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Joe March 26, 2012 at 12:15 pm

The purpose of the airforce is to have manned bombers and fighters. All we need now is an enemy that will co operate with this strategy.

The brass made it clear that they dont need the A-10, C-27, MC-12W, or a new JSTARS.

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Nick T. March 26, 2012 at 2:28 pm

They just haven't had anything loud enough to wake them up out of the cold war wet dream. Bombers and fighters won't with Afganistan, but close light attack and reconnaissance will. Probably why the MQ-series has been so effective.

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Dave March 27, 2012 at 8:14 pm

The AF is "ruled" by fast mover pilots. The AF is still preparing for WWIII with the old USSR rather than facing the scenarios that exist today.

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Will March 26, 2012 at 1:15 pm

Competition. It's not over until the lawyers say it's over.

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Michael March 26, 2012 at 1:27 pm

Well, the air force hasn't shown the best contract awarding process…multiple times.

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Dfens March 26, 2012 at 5:18 pm

I'll give you $1.10 for every dollar you spend designing the next great attack airplane. Should I hope you just won't notice that you'll make more money by jacking up the costs, or trust that your good and decent nature will prevent you from allowing costs to get out of control? I know, I'll hire one non-productive employee for every 2-3 productive employees you have and let them watch everything your employees do so I'll know you're not trying to rob me blind. Of course, could I really trust them to tell me you're robbing me blind? I mean, they don't want to lose their jobs, so no matter what you do, they'll always want to look like they're earning their money, but at the same time make it look like I'm not totally being screwed so that I cancel the whole fiasco and put both the watchers and the watched out of business. Oh dear me, I wish there was some other way of doing business. I guess there isn't, so I'll just do the same thing over and over again, each time hoping for a better result.

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blight_ March 26, 2012 at 2:11 pm

The military procurement system is beginning to look like Fifty First Dates.

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TMB March 26, 2012 at 3:24 pm

So who's playing Drew Barrymore? Taxpayers or the Air Force?

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blight_ March 26, 2012 at 3:41 pm

Changes every morning

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Ronaldo March 26, 2012 at 4:32 pm

Brilliant analogy !

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chaos0xomega March 26, 2012 at 2:22 pm

Hopefully this time we don't end up paying 18 million dollars for a plane worth less than half that amount…

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tribulationtime March 26, 2012 at 2:38 pm

i´m sure boeing kc767 will win this time. Oppss sorry that was other open bid contract.

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Mastro March 28, 2012 at 5:22 pm

I wonder which the AF will get first-

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Williams C. March 26, 2012 at 3:01 pm

By the time we actually get them we'll be out of Afghanistan and the mission planned for these.

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Retired in 1994 March 30, 2012 at 5:32 pm

Hopefully that's true, but they can still be used for flight training at the Academy's.

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retired462 March 26, 2012 at 3:04 pm

Let Karzai pick the aircraft he wants; and pay for it with the money we're already giving him, or pay for them with hisw drug money!

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Lance March 26, 2012 at 3:38 pm

Giving planes to a nations whose solders shoot our won is a biggest fupa in decade's. Let Afghanistan buy there own planes and spending millions we dont have to let foreign makers sell foreign planes to a nonfunctional nation is a waste of money. Let Karzi fend for himself and let him buy his own weapons.

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Sgt_Buffy March 26, 2012 at 4:01 pm

Yeah, then guess who they'll shoot at? Nobody, because if they contract their own weapons things get stolen/smuggled/destroyed etc. by the remnants of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. By having the USA procure supplies, Afghanistan doesn't have to worry near as much about losing their goods. If we help them, they as a government become indebted to us. We're trying to let them do their own fighting.

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C_C March 26, 2012 at 3:55 pm

Can heat-seeking Shoulder launched SAM's track the exhaust of turboprops?

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Sgt_Buffy March 26, 2012 at 4:07 pm

Yes, a properly tuned heat-seeking missile will tend towards ANY heat signature, I believe they were used But since turbo-props are so much cooler, shooting flares will be that much more effective as a counter (talk C-130's). I wonder about the All-Aspect heat-seeking missiles though, Turboprops don't go fast enough to get a "hot" skin for an AA to track. Either way, a good flare spread will deter any SAM that they might have.

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blight_ March 26, 2012 at 4:39 pm

Thought it was also engine size. For instance, helicopters that used large turbines to move a heavy helicopter possibly transporting weapons or personnel would generate more heat to lock onto than a turboprop?

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d. kellogg March 26, 2012 at 7:50 pm

Well,
in the case of the SuperTuc,
its P&W PT6 turboprop isn't rightly larger than each of a UH-60 or AH-64's T700s.
A key difference being, the helos have fin arrangements, channels, and ducting that creates air currents around the exhausts and hotter parts to aid in reducing their thermal signature from a distance.

The SuperTuc and its PT6, that engine just exhausts unshielded
out both sides of the nose thru high-temperature alloy exhaust pipes.
No fancy ducting, no fancy cooling circulation, etc.

To an IR missile, the SuperTuc's hot front fuselage and two sizeable thermal plumes probably appears more appealing than any number of helos featuring various cooling fins and ducts ( then again there IS the Chinook with its two fully exposed >4000shp engines…).

Still, the fact the SuperTuc (or even Hawker/Beech AT-6) can fit those "zero-zero" ejection seats says the crew of the turboprop will face an easier escape from a damaged aircraft,…IF the missile hitting near the engine doesn't frag the guys in the pit…

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blight_ March 26, 2012 at 7:57 pm

Sounds like the two fixed wing aircraft you describe haven't been updated for the MANPAD environment, whereas helicopters have had them as a design consideration perhaps as far back as the very beginning (though back then it was probably more the concealed Dushkha in Vietnam, and only in Afghanistan did someone pull out the Blowpipe or the Redeye…and more lethally, the Stinger).

Mat March 26, 2012 at 7:12 pm

A couple of years back USAF and Slovenian AF conducted a combined SAR excerise and 2 pairs of F16 provided cover for 2 choppers, opposing force consisted of 4 PC-9M pilatus(AT-6 is based on it) and turboprops wiped out the rescue force of 3 F16 and both choppers in exchange for one PC-9 ,besides low pair F16 faling for the turboprops ruse and fighting low level fight , one of the the main reasons was that F16 aim-9 had relatively narrow window for a firing solution on the turboprop ,compared to any jet fighter engine that 1000-1600shp turboprop engine is tiny and exhaust cooled by propwash .

Otherwise Super Tucano is way tougher plane than AT-6 or PC-9 family ,the reason being it was designed for COIN over the Amazon operating form rough field strips ,while AT-6-PC-9 is pure trainer adapted to COIN , Super tucano has reall rough field preformance and 2 internal .50cal MG's so at least potentialy 2 pylons free for stores other than guns

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Sgt_Buffy March 27, 2012 at 12:08 pm

I fully support the idea of using turbo-props for our military, this and other examples have suggested many times that they can be useful as well as cost-efficient. Besides, this means that more people can be pilots, including me! :)

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majrod March 27, 2012 at 6:03 pm

That's a bit of false advertising ref the landing gear points. They've never been tested against each other. BTW, trainers tend to have sturdier landing gear than most planes. They're being flown by "students" and have quite a few more sorties in a training use.

BTW, the Super Tocano is also based on a trainer.

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Mastro March 28, 2012 at 5:26 pm

Not surprised- I think Skyraiders shot down some Mig 17's in Vietnam in a similar scenario- was on Dogfights.

The props can just do a Thatch Weave until they get a solution on the jets-

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LeoC March 27, 2012 at 10:18 am

In the Falklands War, the British SAS shot down an Argentine Pucara with a Stinger missile. The Pucara is powered by two turboprop engines.

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mpower6428 March 26, 2012 at 4:21 pm

here we go again, maybe this time all the right palms were greased and post retirement consulting contracts struck.

they dont even care how rediculous they look anymore.

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tiger March 26, 2012 at 4:47 pm

Contest my ass. The Tucano is ready to go. Proven and can do the mission. The rest is sour grapes & flag waving.

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majrod March 26, 2012 at 5:58 pm

Hardly true. The Tocano might be able to do the mission but so can other aircraft for less $$$.

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chaos0xomega March 26, 2012 at 10:22 pm

Agreed with majrod, the Tucano might be a pretty damned good plane (and the one I favored) but not for nearly 18 million dollars an aircraft…

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tiger March 27, 2012 at 3:33 pm

Order more planes & the price drops.

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majrod March 27, 2012 at 5:55 pm

Uh, or order cheaper planes.

Mike March 26, 2012 at 5:00 pm

1. Go down to Davis-Mothan
2. De-Mothball about 200 Able Dogs (A1E Skyraider)
3. Enjoy REAL Close Air Support!
Just Cuz it's old don't make it any the less dangerous to the Opposition!

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majrod March 26, 2012 at 6:03 pm

Love the Spad. Doubt ANY are mothballed and the production line is LONG closed.

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tiger March 26, 2012 at 7:05 pm

There are no more at the bone yard.

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pedestrian March 26, 2012 at 11:55 pm

and it can arm with toilets! Toilets away!

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Retired in 1994 March 30, 2012 at 5:35 pm

That is a great idea, but it won't cost enough to do it. Government HAS TO SPEND, SPEND, and SPEND SOME MORE!

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majrod March 26, 2012 at 6:02 pm

An unbiased comparison not supplied by either manufacturer…
http://defense.aol.com/2012/03/01/hawker-beechcra

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Jayson March 26, 2012 at 6:37 pm

No need for acompetition. 10 – 20 of each – DONE. No political bs, no loser whining they lost. Everyone wins and Afghan has an AF to be proud of finally and start defending against the Tali's

Or am I making this too simple, easy and logical …

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tiger March 26, 2012 at 7:10 pm

That is not enough volume to make production worthwhile. Not to mention logistics for two different planes.

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blight_ March 26, 2012 at 7:58 pm

Need a few hundred, or else you buy them OTS and have some intrepid mechanics in the shop kitbash something together

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d. kellogg March 26, 2012 at 8:00 pm

Interesting, isn't it,
that the USAF cried "Commonality!" in the JCA program to get the C-27J selected,
yet at the same time,
they're lips-zipped-shut about the SuperTuc, when they already operate the T-6 turboprop trainer, suggesting they should've opted instead for the AT-6, on the grounds of commonality.

Curious to know which soon-to-retire USAF brass may have had job offerings from Sierra and/or Embraer.
(Granted, the Embraer KC-390 concept does seem it could evolve further: more power, more payload, than any C-130J iteration, so there's future potential C-130 replacement there).

Raytheon must've expressed that the only active-duty retirees they're looking for better actually KNOW SOMETHING useful (unlike a few too many outbound USAF program managers), so the Embraer aicraft was favored over the AT-6…?

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TGR March 26, 2012 at 7:24 pm

Can we finally fire the Acquisitions leadership and revamp that command? How many mulligans can we give and at what cost?

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jamesb March 26, 2012 at 10:26 pm

Folks I 'm gonna say that the a/c are gonna be American MADE….

Second HTF can the Air Force get the a/c ready if the US is gonna be out of that country in no more than 2 years?

Who is the Air Force gonna give these 20 American made piston a/c to?
THEY ain't gonna keep them….

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Shail March 27, 2012 at 8:23 pm

:-P
Props don't mean "pistons".
All the current considerations are turboprops (IOW, turbine engine driving a gearbox driving a propellor).
No one builds suitable piston engines anymore for these kinds of combat-capable aircraft (and no one builds enough repair/replacement parts for those Skyraider radial engines, either.)

C'mon, man! :-D

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rpbfinancial March 28, 2012 at 1:55 am

As long as this doesn't keep the tradition of supplying our future enemies i.e. North Vietnam before Vietnam War, Iraq before Iraqi War, Egypt undetermined, we keep the Saudis well equipped…

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Chet Resko March 28, 2012 at 1:51 pm

Hawker-Beech T-6 aircraft has met and exceeded all requirements for the aircraft; bested the super tacano in every category, has produced hundreds of similar trainer aircraft for the US Air Force and Navy and international clients. All with no problems and total customer satisfaction. Why the tacano was chosen is open to question. What deals were made and whose palms greased?

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oldfe March 28, 2012 at 9:23 pm

bert rhutan designed and tested a Fighter he called the mud fighter designed to get down and diry price around 1 million, sngle ofset jet with minny gun

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UAVgeek March 30, 2012 at 2:48 pm

Yeah ARES….but more importantly, where did you learn to spell?

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Eric March 30, 2012 at 10:17 am

The WW2 warhorse P-51 Mustang was supposed to be this kind of aircraft after modifications. I saw it in one of those Flying magazines. It look quite interesting and potent. Why not bring back the P-51 Mustang (heavily modified) as a COIN aircraft.

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tiger March 30, 2012 at 10:44 am

Technology has moved quite a bit since 1945. For one thing, The turboprop is a lot cheaper & easier to run than a Packard Merlin on AV gas. Manual controls for everything makes it hard to fly for very long. 50 gauges have been replaced by glass cockpits. Instead of trying to jump, we have ejector seats. It's easier to maintain on the ground. In reality the Mustang was not that big a world beater. Most of the work and kills were racked up by P-38's & 47's before the 51 really got hot. The Super Tucano is the plane for todays misson.

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ONTIME April 1, 2012 at 2:45 pm

Seeing a dedicated P-51 flying in combat again would make most Americans have a orgasm.

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ONTIME April 1, 2012 at 2:43 pm

So "Made in America" is still not making a impact on our procurements and product control purchases…..stupid is as stupid does.

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Bob April 2, 2012 at 12:04 am

We need a new Commander and Cheif to turn the ship around in the right directiton. This military cutback is reckless at a minumum, treason in light of treats our country faces, as we play politically correct to the Muzlim and knock down Christainity at every opportunity.

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John June 14, 2012 at 12:24 pm

USA should Train and give F15 to afghan air force if they want a strong Afghanistan

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John June 14, 2012 at 12:27 pm

USA should put sanction on Pakistan and not giving them a penny to use your money to help the Taliban and kill Americans in Afghanistan Pakistan is the nest of terrorism

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joo June 14, 2012 at 12:36 pm

I got an easy plan for finishing Afghan war in one year which work prefect this is for American officials my plan is since every body knows by now that Pakistan is behind all these terrorist and Taliban and pakies are their supporter therefore each time that a Taliban attack or kill Afghan or American then USA and NATO should bomb in the heart of paki land including military installation and ISI headquarters then the next time the will think twice before sending suicide bomber to kill US and afghans also placing a tough sanction on Paki land

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USS ENTERPRISE March 19, 2013 at 9:42 pm

My question is why is the plane in the picture on a bed of cotton balls? Honestly, at least get a fog machine. As for light aircraft, I think it could/ would work. It did on the Top Gear team. Don't see why it won't work on some insurgents.

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steve talley January 8, 2014 at 6:47 pm

are not helicopter a better option? the p-3's are gone. seems the jet engine is the future.

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steve January 8, 2014 at 6:50 pm

these should be supplied to china, so when the chop suey hits the fan, we can easily take em out. like a turkey shoot.

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blight_ March 27, 2012 at 6:32 pm

It's mostly in the economy of scale. For instance, the B-2's flyaway is ~700 million versus the average 2.4B that comes with a truncated order.

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blight_ March 27, 2012 at 8:33 pm

Well, it's not like a helicopter would perform any better against a MANPAD? Iglas and Stingers…

If the aircraft will be going into a permissive environment, they'd probably be the 50-cals-and-rocket-pods flavor. If there's a possibility of MANPADs (which would also put the hurt on helicopters) then standoff weapons like external 20mm gunpods, or the fifty-cal GAU and perhaps Hellfires might be called for.

I think our procurement is aimed at the first one…in which case, maybe we could also go for procurement of very light helicopters.

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tiger March 27, 2012 at 8:58 pm

Blight, He thinks we should buy crop dusters with guns on them….

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blight_ March 27, 2012 at 11:23 pm

If we were fighting ww3 again and needed anything with wings and guns on them, maybe.

The better question is if we ordered cheaper planes and were able to procure a greater number of them, can we match it in terms of building out new squadrons, the logistics partstrain, crews, pilots and all that?

The Air Force is very sparse in the pilots department, and among pilots there's a division between transporters, fighters, bombers and UAVs. Are we really going to have enough pilots to man en masse squadrons of large quantities of turboprops?

I wonder what the Air Force has to say about the manpower issue; because manpower projections will determine what kind of aircraft is procured at the end of the day.

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majrod March 28, 2012 at 3:14 pm

Pilot availability is a self inflicted wound. In the Army we have warrants fly. Heck, we have NCO's flying UAVs to include predators (the same ones the Air Force flies) That would open up the available pool.

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