Following widespread criticism and scrutiny in several media outlets, the Air Force set aside a contract it awarded to a Brazilian owned company citing what it called issues with the “quality of the documentation supporting the award decision.”
In December, the Air Force awarded a $100 million contract to Embraer to build 20 Super Tucano light attack aircraft for use by the Afghan military. The only other competitor was Hawker-Beechcraft, which designed the AT-6 which was a lightly modified version of the company’s T-6 trainer which had been in production since 1999. The military has already purchased over 725 of the aircraft which have logged a total of 1.8 flying hours.
Hawker-Beechcraft is an American company with over 80 years of aviation experience which spent $100 million over 4 years in order to be in a position to compete for the contract.
Suddenly, and without giving a reason, the Air Force decided to exclude Hawker Beechcraft form the bidding process, leaving Embraer as the sole bidder. In December the government gave the contract to the Brazilian company.
Three weeks prior to the government excluding Hawker Beechcraft from competing against Embraer, the Securities and Exchange Commission announced it was investigating the company for possible violations of the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act which prohibits companies from bribing foreign officials or making similar illegal payments to obtain business.
If Embraer is found guilty of violating the FCPA it could be barred from doing any business with the U.S. government.
Following the removal of Hawker-Beechcraft from the bidding process, several media outlets and government officials questioned the move.
Todd Tiahrt, a former congressman from Kansas who now runs an aerospace and aviation consulting company, asked “Why is our military going in business with a foreign company that is under investigation by our own FBI?”
Following its exclusion without being given a reason for the action, the company filed suit over the awarding of the contract. After the issue became politically charged the Air Force said it was conducting an investigation of the contract to Embraer.
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 statement. “Since the acquisition is still in litigation, I can only say that the Air Force senior acquisition executive, David Van Buren, is not satisfied with the quality of the documentation supporting the award decision.”
Hawker Beechcraft CEO Bill Boisture commended the Air Forces decision saying, “We look forward to competing for this contract as this important initiative moves forward,
The Air force3 has not yet announced when or if it will restart the competition.