July 16, 2012
Credit: Hawker photo
Hawker Beechcraft’s proposed $1.79 billion deal with China’s Superior Air Beijing leaves open the fate of its defense business and raises issues about the control and supply of the venerable King Air line that is in special-use roles around the globe.
Hawker Beechcraft next week will seek U.S. bankruptcy court clearance to begin exclusive negotiations for the sale of all but its defense business to the Chinese firm (Aerospace DAILY, July 11).
The proposed agreement, announced July 9, would leave the defense business — which in recent years has been Hawker Beechcraft’s most lucrative — as either a standalone operation or to be sold separately. Should it be sold, up to $400 million of the divestiture would be refunded to Superior.
Hawker Beechcraft Defense Co. (HBDC) produces the T-6A/B Texan II military trainer and is developing a tactical version of the single-engine turboprop aircraft, the AT-6, for the U.S. Air Force’s Light Air Support (LAS) contract to be awarded early next year.
But the original 700+ aircraft demand by the U.S. Navy and Air Force is nearly fulfilled, with no other large-scale buyer on the horizon. And the LAS program, out for rebid, was originally awarded to a Sierra Nevada/Embraer team bidding the Super Tucano.
Even though HBDC would not be part of the deal with the Chinese, the Beechcraft King Air turboprop aircraft would, and the Pentagon operates hundreds of those in a variety of roles, most importantly as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) platforms.
Hawker Beechcraft would have to satisfy concerns raised about the control and supply of airframes, components and technical support for the King Airs, such as the MC-12W Liberty, that HBC builds for ISR conversions, among other U.S. government special-mission uses.
“This raises a blurry line between military and civilian technologies,” says an aviation trade association source.