[Editor's Note: Viewpoint author Bill Boisture is CEO of Beechcraft.]
In his recent Viewpoint, Not Even Close: The Better Choice for LAS (AW&ST April 15, p. 58), Fred George identifies “significant differences” between Beechcraft’s AT-6 and Embraer’s Super Tucano aircraft, both competing for the hotly contested U.S. Air Force (USAF) Light Air Support (LAS) bid. However, his opinion of those differences ignores significant facts and badly misuses others in an attempt to substantiate his view.
In this competition, what matters is whether the capabilities of the aircraft meet the threshold or objective requirements as defined in the solicitation—not what differences exist. Here are a few facts:
•The AT-6 met 100% of the LAS requirements, was rated technically “exceptional,” and met five of seven “objective,” or stretch, goals.
•The AT-6 scored the highest possible rating in every LAS technical evaluation category, including mission capability, logistics and training.
•The LAS solicitation calls for an aircraft that “will serve as both an advanced aircrew trainer and a light attack aircraft.” The Super Tucano did not win the Joint Primary Aircraft Training System (JPATS) competition, and was eliminated by the USAF primarily due to its poor flying qualities. Rather, the competition was won by Beechcraft’s T-6 training aircraft upon which the AT-6 draws its heritage. The T-6’s 2.1 million flying hours and excellent safety record speak to its capabilities to perform as an advanced trainer.
•The Super Tucano bid was over 40% ($125 million-plus) more expensive than the AT-6 bid.
Some of the differences George points out as advantages for the Embraer aircraft are actually advantages for the AT-6. Here are a few:
•“Built from the ground up for the light attack role, the Brazilian contender is larger.” Super Tucano was not built from the ground up, despite Embraer’s claim. In fact, the Tucano’s lineage is from the 1990s’ JPATS competition. The fact remains that the AT-6 is a smaller, lighter aircraft that enjoys a significant performance advantage over the larger, heavier Super Tucano.