AT-6 Is Out of the Light Air Support Contest, Award Imminent

The Air Force has apparently booted Hawker-Beechcraft’s AT-6B from its light attack competition.

Hawker says it has no idea yet why its plane was disqualified from the contest a few weeks ago and is requesting a formal review of the matter from the Government Accountability Office.

The AT-6B was competing with Embraer’s Super Tucano for a U.S. Air Force contract to supply up to 20 light air support — or counterinsurgency planes — to the fledgling Afghan air force. A couple of months ago we reported that the service was supposed to decide this month on which plane it would supply the Afghans with.

Here’s a statement that Hawker released on the matter today:

Following the notification last week that Hawker Beechcraft Corporation (HBC) was excluded from the Light Air Support (LAS) bidding process, the company has requested that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) review the Air Force’s decision. The company issued the following statement on this action:

“Yesterday, we received notification that the United States Air Force formally denied our second request for a debriefing. As a result, we still have no information on why the Beechcraft AT-6 was excluded from the Light Air Support competition. We continue to believe that we offered the most capable, affordable and sustainable light attack aircraft as measured against the Air Force’s Request for Proposal. HBC’s exclusion from competing for this important contract appears at this point to have been made without basis in process or fact. We are very interested in learning more about the decision and look forward to the results of the GAO’s review.”

The Air Force is being fairly tight lipped on the issue besides confirming that a contract award will happen in late November or early December. (That’s pretty big news by itself)

Here’s what Air Force spokeswoman Jennifer Cassidy just told DT:

“The Air Force continues to be in close contact with all offerors of the LAS competition. Due to the ongoing source selection, we cannot comment on the status of any of the proposals. We anticipate awarding the contract late November/ early December. We will have more information once all offerors have been debriefed following contract award.

The picture above shows an AT-6B participating in one of the Air Force’s Joint Expeditionary Force Experiment (JEFX) events where it has flown a variety of ISR and light attack missions at the hands of A-10 pilots. Here’s more info on the plane.

  • mhmm…

    So the Air Force refuses to debrief them as to why they have been disqualified?
    you think the air force would try to run at least one procurement in recent history that wasn’t *****

  • Mastro

    Are we throwing a bone to the Brazilians?

    • sdog

      seems like it to me. i also question if this is an attempt for a quid pro quo for use to acquire the super tuscano for them to give the super hornet a leg up in Brazil’s fighter jet competition.

      • carloscardoso

        Brazilian here. Don´t think it really counts, the fighter purchase is stalled and nobody is talking about resuming the process anytime soon.

        The Embraer contract is a fine one but it´s not enough to change the government´s mind.

    • tiger

      Uh, perhaps they have a better plane? The Super Tucano is a proven bird used by many air forces.

    • Wayne

      And hopefully my tax dollars are not buying these planes for the afgans. If so what do we get out of the deal? Opium? Dirt? Hmmmm

  • @4FingrsOfBurbon

    So who’s palms were greased?

  • John Moore

    So the USA has to pay for these? I don’t understand why and if your giving away free planes CA could use a few more f-35’s on the book’s pls and tx

  • A. Nonymous

    I suspect that their debrief request (along with the debrief requests of other bidders who were not selected) will be granted after a contract has been awarded. My guess is that the debrief process and timing were explicitly described in the RFP. If HBC isn’t aware of the debrief schedule, I can’t help but wonder what other sections of the RFP they misinterpreted. That may explain why their proposal was judged to be non-compliant.

    • warlord

      In fact, they “misinterpreted” that the LAS contract was for a “non-developmental” aircraft. Clearly the AT-6 has still been in development and my bet is that this is why they were disqualified. This fits hand-in-glove with GEN Schwartz’ “don’t blow smoke up my ass” comment re: USAF acquisition.

  • Lance

    This is why we need sequestering. Why is the USAF buying planes for Afghanistan? They can buy there own planes and pick what they want.

    For us a A-10 will do fine why not buy them some SU-25s then.

    • Jim

      I thought they were being bought for use in Afghanistan by US Pilots, as a cheaper more sustainable way of providing CAS than the hours and millions it costs to run jets for short periods of cover, unleashing weapons that are often overkill - not by Afghan Pilots?

    • achey128

      Because SU-25s have been used in the past with little effect.

  • Black Owl

    Just restart the A-10 production line! We’ll even make a lot more jobs in the process of restarting it.

    • fromage

      I suspect that’s probably pretty doggone easy to do.

    • Matt Holzmann

      The A-10 tooling is probably mostly gone although I read something back about the Air Force having to re manufacture the ones we have. The factory on Long Island is certainly gone now.

    • tiger

      The A 10 is not the hammer to every nail. It does not meet the need for a Light Air Support air plane. Small, cheap, & simple is what they need.

      • jhm

        but the f35 isnt teh hammer for hte a10s work. compared to the f35, the a10 is wayyyyyyyyyy cheaper and simpler

        • Dale

          You can NOT “re-start” what no longer exists and has not existed in decades.

  • bob

    The thing flew like a champ… loved flying these in pcola… id strap one of these on anyday.. wish they would pick this up.. would sit in the back anyday!

  • bob

    well it wasnt an at-6.. was a regular t-6… i can see a flame comming…

  • t38ip2003

    Just slap some stuff on the aging T38s. I flew them when I was in my 20s in the 1970s, sounds like they will be around if I live until 120——-

  • Nicky

    What about restarting the F-20 Tigershark production line

    • BP

      The F20 was a great plane but not so much for the LCAS role. As a low cost, high volume air superiority and short range strike aircraft it would’ve been awesome.

      Quantity has a quality all of its own.

      • guest

        Was a great aircraft, just ask Chuck Yeager!

    • fromage

      I suspect that’s probably pretty doggone easy to do, too.

      • PMI

        You forgot to use the sarcasm font.

  • mpower6428

    sounds like Embraer made the better post retirement deal to the greater number of airforce officers at the right price.

  • warlord

    The key to this is Brazil’s FX2 competition. If embraer wins the LAS contract my guess is the skids are greased for Boeing to win that $8B program. Not a bad trade.

  • Backpack

    All these little turboprop tandems look the same to me but this move smells political; Brazil is becoming more and more important.

    Personally, I always liked the Scaled Composites Ares as a mini-A10 but I guess it was too niche.

  • Matt Holzmann

    We are probably fighting the last war again. These planes will probably be piloted by Talibainans soon enough. We should sell the Afghans the most complicated, hard to maintain, and dangerous planes we can so that when the Islamists do infiltrate maybe we can send a few to Allah.

    A COIN aircraft would have been a great idea @ 6-8 years ago. Typical military.

    • Ming the Merciless

      100% right - the entire US military should have realized in March of 2004 for Iraq and after September of 2002 for Afghanistan that we were in for a long COIN - Occupation / Reconstruction operation and need appropriate vehicles, weapons, tactics, etc…

    • tiger

      They fill the same role as the A-37’s & Skyraiders we sold off after Vietnam to many small Air forces.

    • Kevin Smithwick

      Agreed there is a huge gap when it comes to light fixed-winged support, the A-10 is redundantly over-powered for the role. Not mention the cost benefits of maintaining a piston engine over a jet turbine. In addition these aircraft can exploit semi-disposable dirt runways and can loiter for far greater amounts of time than a jet.. The question is “why haven’t we bought these for our military”.

  • Nicky

    What do you all think about getting the KAI T-50 Golden Eagle from South Korea as a ASA aircraft and be used for ASA patrols. It is after all a compact version of an F-16. Maybe that is something that the US Air force can use as well.

    • TGR

      A/T-50s have a far more terrible combat radius than most jets currently used.

  • jamesb

    Let’s see how many the Air Force BUYS….
    They got PROPELLER’S for goodness sakes!
    I mean if they only buy maybe 5 or 10….
    Maybe the Army can steal’m back from the Air Force out in Arizona where they’ll be hidden until everybody forgets about them……..

    • McPosterdoor

      So what? Reapers have PROPELLERS.

  • Oudin

    I think AF is’t fair enough for beechcraft AT-6.

  • Twidget at large

    So… was there an honest technicle issue or was there was a “technicle issue”.

  • tiger

    For once, the USAF made the right call.

  • Michael

    Just guessing (as much as any of you), but maybe we decided that it wouldn’t be prudent to send Afghanistan the T-6 when we currently use that for JUPT. And it’s not like we’re going to use them, except for maybe training the Afghan air force. Personally, I like the AT-6, even the Super Tucano; I just don’t get the impression that the USAF wants to buy an aircraft that will ultimately wind up in the hands of another country (and potentially in the wrong hands at some point), and in doing so to select an aircraft that we use to train our young pilots. So, select something else.

    I’d love to see the USAF embrace the light-attack aircraft. I just don’t think that will happen.

    Just brainstorming…

  • joe

    give them the ov 10’s the atf tried to get to use against the us citizens instead.

  • BlessedToBeFree

    One,, we do not need to spend our tax dollars buying the Afgan’s anything.
    Two,, we dang sure do not need to be sending our tax dollars to Brazil when we need the work here in the US.

  • Uranium238

    The AF is concealing the true decision maker to this. The Obama Adm. Why throw the bone to Embraer of Brazil while heavily lobbying oil production there? Sounds like someone politicians are investing in Brazil and are well aware of their ties to Iran.

  • Uranium238

    Beechcraft is about to lose some jobs now over this decision, sadly. Brazil…gains! WTF is going on in the heads of these people.

  • Nicky

    I think the reason why Brazil is going to get to sell the A-29 Super Tucano is because the A-29 Super Tucano is a proven design and proven aircraft over Beechcraft. The A-29 has a combat track record that was witnessed by spec ops operating in Columbia. That’s why I think the A-29 Super Tucano is perfect as a light attack Aircraft and also can be able to help smaller and developing foreign air forces as well

  • RicH

    It is a COIN fight, so the surface to air threat is minimal. A-10s, F-16s and F-15Es are doing the CAS/COIN fight now. The Strike Eagle burns 10,000 lbs/hour, the AT-6 / Tucano will burn about 500 lbs/hour. A Viper or Strike Eagle needs at least one tanker for a four hour vul. An AT-6 / Tucano with drop tanks can fly a four hour vul. Simple economics. At $10K+/hour for a fighter, plus the cost of a tanker sortie on top, a COIN aircraft pays for itself over time. It will be on the order of 5 to 10 times cheaper to operate. All you need is a GBU-38 / GBU-12 capable platform, maybe a gun. The AT-6 is the modified T-6, which already has some issues with shoehorning the PT-6 motor into the airframe, ie smaller oil pan, cooling issues, etc. I would want a bigger motor for carrying 1,000 lbs more in bombs and up to 1000 lbs more in fuel as well, otherwise you end up like the A-10, underpowered. You have a million hardpoints but don’t have the thrust to make use of them all. The Tucano has already solved that problem and is combat proven in South America. I’m all for supporting US manufacturing, but not if it isn’t the best airplane for the job.

  • RicH

    The other side of the coin is that this will be a Foreign Military Sales Contract for aircraft sold to Afghanistan. Afghanistan will pay for its own aircraft eventually. The USAF is looking to get 20 airplanes to train other countries, then those countries buy the COIN aircraft equaling more orders from the contract winner. So it is much more than 20 aircraft on the line for Beechcraft. We aren’t going to buy airplanes to give to Afghanistan.

  • Brazilian Hawk

    Well,I am a Brazilian citizen, a veteran in aviation journalism.And I’ll tell you: it was becoming too late for the USA to leave that “buyAmerican” pride and recognized that the Embraer Super Tucano is just the newest face of the Tucano Turboprop trainer flying in countries like France,UK and many many countries and the Tucano “family” is ding well.You should know that the Colombian Air Force is giving hell to the FARC’s members.In a single attack, a Super Tucano bombed a certain house and killed more than a dozen of the most important members of Farc in a meeting.
    If I were you or your government, I would try it. It’s “bom,bonito e barato” (good,pretty and not expensive) and combat proven.Until now your trying to kill fleas with machine guns. Try something less expensive and overstaged.

  • Angelo Nicolaci

    I am Brazilian and I edit the blog GeoPolitica Brasil, see the output of the AT-6 in two ways, first because of some deficiencies in the project and not being a proven aircraft in combat, the second as a way of putting pressure on the process of FX- 2 in Brazil, where Boeing is being seen as unlikely winners in order of my preference for government and military Rafale and Gripen NG.

    But rest assured that if they acquire the Super Tucano, will be leading an outstanding aircraft, it is super capable and proven in combat not only in Colombia, but on missions to attack drug traffickers in the Brazilian Amazon.

    Know a little more about Brazil visiting my blog.

  • CaptainRevenge

    The Pentagon has limited the “competition” to one company, a company that is not only not an American manufacturer, it’s a government-owned entity with ties to our enemies. The company is Embraer, which is controlled by the government of Brazil and has close ties to the government of Iran.


    The a-10 fanboyism needs to stop. It’s a SLOW plane. The reason why it has an acceptable kill ratio is because they’ve been in contact against countries with a limited air defense capability.

    Go against a place such as Russia or China, then they a-10’s would be wrecked.

  • William C.

    The A-29 Super Tucano has certainly proven itself in a variety of roles. Indeed, perhaps it is superior to the AT-6B for COIN operations. Yet will we manufacture them in the US under license, or buy them directly from Brazil?

    Considering the state of the economy and how crucial jobs are, there is going to be a ton of controversy if we aren’t building them here. Enough to halt the program and force new bids to be made.

  • guest

    I say put 22 cal’s on a Mooney and ,there you go for the affies.

  • Chris

    If it came down to which was a better aircraft and was more economically feasable to buy, so be it. But, after the $$$$ sent to Brazil to drill for oil, I kind of doubt it. As far as aircraft for the Afghans to fly, well we could produce some very fine ones here. Not being USAF I would imagine that our guys could make a logical, rationalr, and nonpolitically influenced decision, right? If this contract goes to Brazil I am sure that it is being down out of gratitude for curbing the flow of drugs and supporting the GWOT. Yaawwwnnn, right. As usual howhever, this stinks to high heaven of Washington political intervention. Personally, I think a Sopwith Camel or Curtis Jenny would make an outstanding aircraft for Afghanistan. Its all a joke!

  • awesome

    Government Accountability Office…now there is some irony.

  • Chris

    Ernesto - thanks for the update. Now it comes down to simply which is the better aircraft.

  • Ernesto

    I am from Brazil. The Super T will be built in Jacksonville, Fla. Almost 60 American companies in 19 states will provide components and services to support the mission. Certainly it is America made.

  • GlennMiller

    Restart the North American P51 line!

  • John Moore

    Why not take the what we called the AD-6 sky raider in the late 50 when I was in the first marine air wing and remove the radical engine and install a turbo prop engine and give it a up grade in electronics and add a couple more hard points on it wings and you will have you a very good ground attack plane. I was a very outstanding ground attack air craft in it day there was none better in my book

    • Tiger

      John, that is the point of the contest. This is basically to buy a new Skyraider.

  • Jim Dandy

    Beechcraft planes have to many defective parts that are built in Mexico, and the feds know it. HAA HAA HAA

  • Gabriel

    The RFP called for an operational aircraft, and specifically excluded “developmental” aircraft in testing. This aircraft was simply a prototype, they put a big engine on a T-6, but hadn’t increased the size of the rudder - recipe for disaster. For curiosity sake look at the Nellis video where the AT-6 starts to take off, you can see the pilot input full rudder to keep the airplane from going sideways (you can also see the intake suck up a whole bunch of sand!). The software on this plane was also just a patch of the A-10 software and was not certified or tested.

    But of course giving the Afghans a fleet of these is just a waste of time, they don’t have the pilots or the maintainers to support what they have now.

  • Bob

    Obama made promises to Brazil, so the Air Force must comply with the Executive Order vs. giving the contract to the company with the best product, and one that would created US jobs.

  • Riceball

    Aerial refueling will only get you so far, if its legs are too short then it might run into a gap where it can’t reach a tanker. Plus if it has short legs then that would probably affect its loiter time, a CAS plane that has to constantly take off to refuel is not much use unless you have enough of them to constantly cycle them in and out for (near) constant coverage.

  • NavyVet

    More Billions evidently to Obama’s Socialist Buddies in Brazil!! Lets not forget the 2 Billion in loans so they can deep drill offshore for a company that George Soros owns millions of shares in! What’s wrong with American Planes? Americans died so they get a chance to fly them!

  • msimoes

    Look people. let’s get serious if it was disqualified because it is something that is not well in this plane. They would not make it so easy.
    Now if this guy from Kansas who entrust the lives of soldiers in a plane that is just a prototyping bad, that he send his son to Afghanistan, and good riddance.

  • Seidl

    In the end it is a political decision. The Tucano will be built in Florida by Americans, so the choice should be based on the greatest return, and it seems that Boeing is starting to look as a real contender on the Brazilian FX-2.

    And regarding the brazilian “ties” to Iran, well there are none. Just one horrible decision of a ex-president.

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