June 14, 2012
Credit: Credit: Hawker Beechcraft
The U.S. Air Force insisted on Wednesday it had briefed both U.S. defense contractor Sierra Nevada Corp and Hawker Beechcraft Corp and got their input on plans to redo a bungled competition to supply 20 light planes to Afghanistan.
Privately held Sierra Nevada Corp, which is partnered with Brazil’s Embraer, said on Tuesday it had filed a lawsuit in federal court against the U.S. Air Force to win back a $355 million contract that the Air Force abruptly canceled in February. It said the Air Force had not adequately explained its decision to scrap the initial deal.
The lawsuit has raised concerns about how soon Afghan forces will receive the already delayed light support planes, a move U.S. officials say is particularly important given U.S. plans to withdraw most of its forces from Afghanistan.
The incident has been an embarrassment for U.S. Air Force acquisition officials, who have been at pains to rebuild their reputation after a procurement scandal in the early 2000s in which a former Air Force weapons buyer and a former Boeing chief financial officer were sent to prison for ethics violations.
The issue is also being watched closely in Brazil, where officials are still smarting from the cancellation of another U.S. military deal involving Embraer planes.
U.S. Air Force spokesman Lieutenant Colonel John Dorrian underscored the importance of the competition, and rejected Sierra Nevada’s claim that it had not been adequately briefed.
“We absolutely briefed both offerors on the new request for proposal and enabled them to provide us input into that,” Dorrian told Reuters late on Wednesday.
He said both companies had thorough discussions with the Air Force about its approach to the follow-on competition on April 17, and then submitted comments on those plans on April 26.
Sierra Nevada, together with planemaker Embraer, beat out Hawker Beechcraft to win the contract last year, but the Air Force canceled the deal in February and launched a fresh competition after discovering that its own documentation of the contract award was insufficient.