Beechcraft announced that it is filing a protest with the Government Accountability Office over the Air Force’s decision to award the Light Air Support contract to the Sierra Nevada/Embraer team and not to it. “Following our debrief with the Air Force earlier this week, we are very perplexed by this decision,” said Beechcraft CEO Bill Boisture in the company’s March 8 release. The Air Force on Feb. 27 chose the A-29 Super Tucano that Sierra Nevada/Embraer will supply over Beechcraft’s AT-6. The contract for 20 LAS airplanes and associated equipment and services for the Afghan air force is worth an estimated $427 million. Boisture said Beechcraft’s AT-6 bid was more than $125 million less than the competitors’ A-29 proposal. “We simply don’t understand how the Air Force can justify spending over 40 percent more . . . for what we consider to be less capable aircraft,” he said. In their own release, Sierra Nevada and Embraer asserted that their A-29 bid was the overall best value. “Given the strength of our proposal and the thoroughness of the Air Force’s evaluation process, it is unfortunate that Beechcraft is now protesting,” states the release. (See also Kansas lawmakers’ joint release and letter.)
The Air Force overall reduced its size by 120 aircraft in fiscal year 2021, but kept about the same number of fighter, bomber and attack aircraft, according to data supplied by the service. The F-35 fleet saw the biggest increase while the B-1B bomber fleet saw the largest decline.