Air Force Cans Super Tucano Light Attack Contract

Well, the Air Force just scrapped the  $355 million contract it gave Embraer and Sierra Nevada Corporation for 20 Super Tucano light attack turboprops on Dec. 31.

Remember, the Brazilian Super T beat out Hawker Beechcraft’s AT-6 Texan in the light attack contest aimed at providing a counterinsurgency aircraft for the tiny Afghan air force.

Apparently, someone got something pretty wrong in the “documentation” for the deal. So wrong that the Air Force has contacted the Department of Justice about the matter. Uh oh.

Here are the details as reported by Marcus over at Defense News:

the U.S. Air Force plans to negate a decision to award Sierra Nevada Corp. and Embraer a $355 million contract for 20 light-attack aircraft for the Afghan military.

The move follows efforts to protest the award by Wichita, Kan.-based Hawker Beechcraft, whose AT-6 turboprop lost the bid in December. The company unsuccessfully protested the Air Force decision to the Government Accountability Office and has since filed a lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims.

Now the Air Force says it will “set aside” the contract award as of March 2 to Brazil-based Embraer and its U.S. partner, Sierra Nevada, for Super Tucano aircraft, according to Jennifer Cassidy, a service spokeswoman.

“While we pursue perfection, we sometimes fall short, and when we do, we will take corrective action,” Air Force Secretary Michael Donley said in a Feb. 28 statement on the decision.

Donley added that Air Force acquisition executive David Van Buren “is not satisfied with the quality of the documentation supporting the award decision.”

At the same time, Gen. Donald Hoffman, commander of Air Force Materiel Command, has launched an investigation into the matter.

On Feb. 28, the Air Force notified the Justice Department of its action, according to Cassidy.

Here’s Sierra Nevada’s response to the cancellation, it doesn’t say much other than, ‘we’re disappointed and we did nothing wrong.’

SPARKS, NV, February 28, 2012 –  Taco Gilbert, Ret. USAF Brigadier General, and Vice President of ISR Business Development at Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) issued the following statement in response to the announcement by the U.S. Air Force that it will set aside the contract issued in December for Light Air Support capabilities (LAS):

“We are disappointed by this decision.  We offered the U.S. Air Force a fully proven and cost-effective Light Air Support solution – and one that would be made in America, create and support American jobs and result in economic investment in the U.S.  We know that our submission fully met the requirements of the U.S Air Force Request for Proposal (RFP) and that Sierra Nevada Corporation fully complied with the RFP process as set out by the U.S. Air Force.

“Today’s announcement only further delays the effort to get critical capabilities into the hands of our men and women in uniform and our coalition partners in-theatre.  It also stymies efforts to create jobs and economic development at a time when our economy needs the boost.

“SNC and our team remain ready to get to work on this important contract. The A-29 Super Tucano, made in America, is the only plane that is capable today of meeting the requirements of the LAS mission. Nothing changes the fact that the war-fighter needs this capability immediately.”

 

 

  • Mastro

    I wonder if some Brazilian-US trade talk/deal just broke down.

    • Rodrigo

      just in the past week, there are talks about Brazil President announcing the selection of the French Rafale for the FX2 program before the middle of the year, specially now that India bought that same plane.

    • Mike

      Obama might cancel the cancellation. George Soros own part of Embraer.

  • Rodrigo

    Sounds more like a political decision than technical.

  • mpower6428

    and this is how the airforce does business…? how much money was wasted in man hours typing emails back and forth for months on end while this sad senario played out.

    NEWS FLASH

    the airforce has never been and, will never be interested in a cost effective “prop driven” close support aircraft. especially now that they’ve invested in an A-10 refurbishment program.

    i mean really, has the airforce ever bought an airplane that didnt require a logistics tail measure in thousands of tons and manhours to support…? how would they justify their budget…?

    its all a freakin scam.

    • HiPowerGuy

      Ohhh c’mon now Mpower6428!! The A.F. couldn’t just sit back, and watch the Army WASTE over $100 million on the last 3 M4/M16 rifle replacement trials over the last 12 years and do NOTHING now….could they.

      I mean, a simple fix of a better upper ( i.e heavier barrel, better o/s system; ADCOR B.E.A.R for example ) a better trigger and maybe a better muzzle brake which could surely take a weapon that has not been replaced for almost 50 years due to there not really being a BETTER one. And make it last , oh….maybe another 30 years and save a bunch of wasted money! Now, that is surely a DUMB idea :-)

  • JE McKellar

    Of course they cancelled the contract, the Afghan military has turned against the US occupation. There’s no longer any need for the planes.

  • Musson1

    You guys are missing the part where this is being referred to the DOJ.

    Someone either bribed someone. Or, they altered the contract after the fact.

    • EJ257

      Sounds like the tanker deal all over again. Didn’t someone go to jail for that during the 1st round when it was initially awarded to Boeing?

      • Dfens

        Darlene Druyun? Yes, she did 9 months. Boeing really suffered too. They managed to jack the development cost up from $1 billion to $6 billion and dragged it out for a decade before it was finally cancelled. They only cleared $600,000,000. You can be sure they learned their lesson — about how stupid the US taxpayer is. And what did you get for the $6 billion the USAF wasted? Nothing. Not a damn thing. Of course, Boeing things you’re too stupid to be allowed to keep that money anyway. I’d love to be able to say they’re wrong.

        • blight_

          Yup.

          You know, if the IRS/SEC(?) audited how the DoD did procurement, there’d be generals in jail…

          • Dfens

            Unfortunately what they do is morally wrong, but not illegal. We need to make it illegal. Until that happens, we will continue to get more of the same, our military will continue to get weaker, our weapons will continue to be more expensive and less effective. There’s plenty of incentive to fix the problem. My question is, where is the out rage?

    • HiPowerGuy

      Isn’t that just NORMAL Afghan contract bits and pieces?

  • Roy Smith

    We need to get the hell out of Afghanistan NOW. The list of “friendly” countries that we are able to pass through or over to logistically supply Afghanistan are getting fewer & fewer. There was never any serious attempt to win the war in Afghanistan. A lot of soldiers,sailors,airmen,& marines died in this fiasco. Never mind that the Air Force had NO serious intention of buying the Super Tucano or any turbo-prop COIN aircraft for that matter for any reason. Our troops & NATO needs to ride their vehicles & equipment out of Afghanistan through either Turkmenistan &/or Tajikistan,& then fly out of Kyrgyzstan,contract ferries to move ground equipment across the Caspian Sea to Georgia & Azerbaijan,& then ship them through the Black Sea back to Europe(Italy & Germany). We need to get out NOW.

    • tiger

      Well if relations with Pakistan were not so bad such a route would not be needed. Till things with Iran get settled, I don’t think strategically you can leave just yet. Afghanistan for bad or worse sits in the middle of things.

      • Roy Smith

        Afghanistan is landlocked & is surrounded with unfriendly/potentially unfriendly nations. If you can’t get in or out of Afghanistan,by land or air,then NATO & our troops are trapped. They’d have to go through [pick a nation] like Sherman’s march through the South just to leave Afghanistan.

        • tiger

          All Heavy items have to go by sea. For better or worse We Need To Make Pakistan happy.

          • Roy Smith

            That’s true,Pakistan is the best route to go for getting the heavy items out to sea,that’s why I gave the crazy scenario of “Plan B”,land route through Turkemistan & Tajikistan,ferry the equipment across the Caspian Sea to Georgia & Azerbaijan,transport them across country to the Black Sea & then sail them out. This extreme scenario is in case we have burned the bridges so badly with Pakistan that we can’t use them to transport our equipment out to ports. We also know that it will be a cold day in Hades before Iran allows us to use their ports to leave Afghanistan.

          • blight_

            The alternative is to gradually pull out heavy equipment through strategic airlift. Anything that won’t fit on a C-17 probably couldn’t be moved via a truck owned by Pakistanis through the Khyber and to the seaports.

            More likely than not, it will be cheaper to just give hardware to the Afghans, unless it is potentially useful to the enemy. Anything useful that cannot be moved will be destroyed in place.

            Realistically, the evacuation of the military will require very slow phased withdrawals to key bases with major airports (Bagram or Kandahar?) probably use tactical controllers to get the last aircraft out (with security troops), which will then be exfiltrated to a carrier offshore. Since the locals hopefully won’t have MANPADS to turn on the Americans, the evacuation shouldn’t require a Chosin reservoir style withdrawal. More ideal is to do the evac at night and hope people don’t get a clue and start coming at the gates trying to get in while you have reduced security forces. It will still be dicey to be the last troops in Afghanistan.

        • Craig

          Less Sherman and more Xenophons Anabasis, I would think. There would probably even be Persians involved!

          • blight_

            Oh yes indeed.

            And for modern comparison, it’ll be an aerial evac like Saigon in ’75. Presumably with just as much hysteria for hapless Afghan police and the whatnot trying to escape Hekmatyar and Taliban execution squads.

  • tiger

    “Donley added that Air Force acquisition executive David Van Buren “is not satisfied with the quality of the documentation supporting the award decision.”

    What the hell is that code speak for????

    • blight_

      Probably irregularities. All it takes is using some supplier known to procure counterfeit parts?

    • raging.dragon

      My guess is that the documentation includes incomplete test results, or test results that suggest the inferior airplane was selected, thus leaving auditors suspecting the contest was comprimised by bribery, conflict of interest, etc..

    • Stephen Kandul

      I only spent about 32 years in acquisition in the Army, Navy, and Air Force working on systems like the Trident, R&D and Installation Support, so my opinion is less than knowledgeable.

      If the award decision documentation is not up to speed it can mean a variety of things…for example. The selection process documentation does not address the criteria of the RFP, the Source Selection Authority decision does not conform to the RFP, or the Source Selection Process simply does not document in writing in the decision/recommendation documents the evaluation criteria laid out in the RFP.

      The notification to Justice may indicate that review of this controversial source selection process has discovered indications of criminal activity…bribes, kickbacks, etc. This is not un-known in USAF and other DOD acquisitions. Many in the profession still wonder how Halliburton got a FIVE YEAR sole source contract on grounds of urgency.

  • Jayson

    Want to make both kids happy? Buy a set of both. 10- 10, up the contract and 20 and 20.

    I personally can’t see 20 A/C covering Afghan country very effectively at all.

    Maybe get some allied nations to chip in on the costs even. Brazil can do a lend lease to Karzai.

    mmm … I must be making this too simple lol.

  • John

    Lets see here it’s the year 2012 and yet WW2 fighter planes had more firepower,range and better climb rate than the two planes in question here,am i missing something here?

    • Rodrigo

      Missing alot… you missed this points made here in this site when the plane was selected months ago. cannons had more power than todays rockets, doesnt mean they can do a better job than a currently highly developed rocket nowdays. its not a air fighter plane, its a light close support plane.

    • tiger

      But your WW2 plane lacks the modern Avionics, a ejection seat, no need for av gas,etc. etc.

    • Dfens

      You definitely aren’t the one missing anything here. In fact, you seem to be one of the few to actually catch on to what a piece of crap this whole program was. Either one of these airplanes would be lucky to get off the ground with a full tank of fuel on a hot, humid day in that God forsake place. Apparently all of their “ground pounding” would be done with the pilot’s service pistol on those days.

  • TGR

    Is it finally time to fire AF acquisitions? This aircraft would have saved millions of dollars while better supporting the troops in COIN with less personnel. Too bad the leadership in question can’t figure that out.

  • Jonathan

    My theory is that the Air Force realized they were getting ripped off. I was shocked when I first read the news at how much these planes were going to cost a piece. Something like 20 million each? There is no way a prop plane should ever cost 20 million unless it’s a long range bomber. I think the avionics was the justification for the enormous price tag, but that was bullshit in my opinion. They were trying to fleece the government. Im sure HBC or whoever the other competitor was, were trying to do the same. That’s probably why the Air Force is throwing a big monkey wrench into it. It’s just not worth the money.

    Hire some airplane kit builder who sells this class of airplane on the commercial market for 100,000$., and give them a simple design to add weapon mount’s and a two way radio. Can build these airplanes for well under 500,000 a piece.

    Defense spending is measured in billions nowadays for anything we try to do. It’s shameful.

    That’s my opinion, a non military civilian, who still thinks a million dollars is a TON of money.

    • Rodrigo

      The reason why the plane that won was more expensive was not just the fact that it is way different from the its DNA on, but the package in which it was proposed would have alot more then just material being put into place.

      The setup necessary for the full support of this plane in the US and in Afghanistan would have to be created in both places, as for the Hawker plane, the US already operates the same model as the basic trainer, so the logistics is already in place, even if not in production anymore, it is still being maintained. So the fly away cost of the first 20 would be $$$, but then the (possible) future orders would cost $$.

      When you take into account that the Super Tucano making capabilities currently does not exist in the US (organized for that porpouse that is, not lack of qualified labor force), It would have to be built up to the task, thus increasing the initial cost. even USAF pilots would have to be trained. ( you can be a F22 pilot and still need training for different aircrafts)

      On the hawker side however, given that every USAF pilot has already used the trainner model of their plane, it would far cheaper to adapt them to the platform, not to mention the possibility of basic support being done by the airforce crew instead of the company once in Afghanistan.

      If embraer provides the plane, they have to really setup 100% of logistics (hardware, know-how, partners, plant, man power). Hawker doenst.

      Its not just buying a airplane, its buying a package. We cant look at this thinking its like buying a gun at your local gun shop.

      • blight_

        Practical thinking that doesn’t hinge on bottom dollar tends to exist only in wartime, and disappears just as quickly.

    • Amicus Curiae

      “There is no way a prop plane should ever cost 20 million unless it’s a long range bomber”
      Jonathan, you need to educate yourself about how much it costs to design and build airplanes. What you think it should cost is not reality.

      “Hire some airplane kit builder who sells this class of airplane on the commercial market…”
      They did that, as far as I’m concerned. As it happens, the Tucano is the only airplane in production now that is suitable. The AT-6, which is a derivative of the Pilatus PC-9 (another foreign aircraft) needed much more work to get it combat capable.
      “Defense spending is measured in billions nowadays for anything we try to do. It’s shameful.”
      It costs what it costs. I assume you are saying you think it is not worth it? Maybe so. In order to establish that, we would have to go to war with equipment we know to be inferior and see how we do. That is the track we are on now. Be happy.

    • Amicus Curiae

      “a non military civilian, who still thinks a million dollars is a TON of money. ”
      That is a description of a very thrifty airplane buyer. You should be working for the government. Good luck with that. You would not find anyone answering your solicitations for the budgets you have in mind, so you would buy nothing. It may be right the way to go, especially when considering a program like this. This project is a diplomatic one, not a military one. The US is trying to establish a professional military organization in a tribal wasteland, and the COIN aircraft project is their vehicle. The USAF has no requirement for a turboprop COIN and shouldn’t have one.

    • tiger

      You can’t even get a starting MLB pitcher for $1 million anymore.

  • Claudio Rubens

    As a Brazilian i think that we also would not buy from US Boeing Co. about 160 jet SuperHonet, and look for another country that real want to do business for bothsides as strong partners. Claudio

    • Musson1

      Claudio,

      I sympathize with your feeling of rejection. But, a large part of the US commercial aviation fleet are Brazilian built TurboProps. I have ridden on plenty.

      • MC

        and likewise a large part of brazilian commercial fleet are US built props/***** – that has nothing to do with this, though; all (most of) those purchases are made on pure economical/technical merit, not internal/external politics/bribery.

        • MC

          erm… since when the abbreviation of ‘helicopters’ can constitute an offensive enough word to justify its censorship?!? LOL

        • Claudio Rubens

          Yes, and we with respect buy from Us suppiers, but is getting change!! Nowadays TAM biggest Brazilian Airlines who joined with LAN they are going to have AIRBUS aircraft (from Europe) instead Boeing!! why??
          Claudio Rubens Brazil

      • Claudio Rubens

        But Musson1, we are or not a partner??? Or in your understand we should approuch Chinese or Russians. I dont think so!. The problem there is the same here! the Congress, the polititians. Fortunately, all Brazilians we love and respect US. Thanks for yr comments. I live in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

  • Uranium238

    I still can’t get my head around why our Air Force would go with a foreign airplane when we have had such incredible innovations in the first place.

  • Vaporhead

    With the amount of money we send overseas in the form of “donation” per year, we could easily finance and improve our existing weapons systems, like the A-10. Spend our money here, not send it overseas rebuilding places we destroy.

    • McDonald

      you are right, usa destroy a lot of place in people in the world, maybe the world could be better whit out usa sistem… i like american but really hate the system… ekaaaaaaaa

  • jamesb

    I know there are 56 comments above mine so I’m sure I repeating the obvious….
    The ARMY should have bought this aircraft……
    PERIOD…
    I predicted on this blog that the Air Force would can this a/c because it does NOT go fast enough….
    Just as the C-27J has been put on the shelf……
    The Army gets screwed again!

  • robertro2

    THIS COUNTRY GOES TO WAR IN AFGHANISTAN, OUR TROOPS GET WOUNDED AND DIE FOR WHAT SO THIS GOVT CAN GIVE THE AFGHAN AIR FORCE CONTRACT TO BRAZIL,WHO IN OUR GOVT MADE THIS DUMB DECISION….MAY ALL THE A/C CRASH AND BURN….

    • Thomas L. Nielsen

      Uhm….you do know that the planes were supposed to be built in the US, right?

      As for your kind wish that they all crash and burn, since there won’t actually be any aircraft, you won’t see that wish come true.

      Oh, and for the love of Sweet Zombie Jesus drop the all caps, would you? Please? Typing in all caps adds nothing, and reading it makes my hair hurt.

      Regards & all,

      Thomas L. Nielsen
      Luxembourg

    • Claudio Rubens

      But Robertro2, i dont know if you know or not! Boeing (famous US Co.) want to sell war jet to Brazil (SuperHornet), Mr Obama, with respect, is doing hard when he came to Brazil to convince us to buy 160 SuperHornet, saying “we are brothers country”! but i dont seem like that!! France, Switzerland and Russian are more friendly!!! Unfortunately, Us dont trust in your partners, only in Israel. Claudio Rubens. Sao Paulo-Brazil

    • Claudio Rubens

      IT WAS DONNE LIKE THIS, BECAUSE PEOPLE LIKE YOU, DONT KNOW WHAT THE WORD “PARTNER” MEANS!. US WAS SUPPOSED TO PAY MILLION FOR TUCANO RIGHT!! (EXCUSE ME, AN AIRPLANE MADE IN USA, JOB AMERICANS WHO NEED, NOT FOR YOU!!) AND WE BRAZILIAN WERE SUPPOSED TO “BUY” I SAID BUUUUUYYYYY 160 (ONE HUNDRED ANS SIXTY) JET SUPER HORNET, A CONTRACT OF BILLION, ALSO JOB FOR US AMERICANS, JUST SOME PARTS MADE IN BRAZIL!!! SO NOW WE GO TO RUSSIANS!. THEY HONOR THEIR WORD!

  • BRASS

    Likely as not this is another of Harry Reids’ pork barrel awards to his home state contributors or supporters. He is used to getting his way without question, this may stick in his craw and upset his record.

  • political observer

    I am glad to see that George Soros’s Brizian company will not get the contract, I had reservation about awarding to the Brazilain firm. if you are not aware George Soro hass interest in a Brazilain oil exploration company the was given $2 billions to subsidize oil exploration in the mid Atlantic off of Brazil. Why didn’t US firms receive the money to exploe for oil in the Gulf of Mexico??????????.

  • Brian

    What was wrong with the OV-10 Bronco?

  • Jeff

    I actually suspect this is a legal issue. It sounds to me (without knowing any backstory) that the AF acquisition folks screwed up the docs (probably made some requirement ambiguous or was not clear enough that some piece was a requirement), which is what resulting in Hawker’s entry being rejected. Hawker then files a claim to challenge the award, and after looking at it, the AF is having to acknowledge that they may have screwed up.

    Rather than pursuing a contract that they may ultimately lose in litigation (or via some settlement), they canned the Tucano contract.

    If this is the case, then typically the thing would be rebid with the errors in the bid docs corrected. Of course politics may take over and prevent it from being rebid, or perhaps I’m completely off track.

    J.

  • Alex

    Referring this matter to the DOJ is the tell all clue here. Someone pulled a fast one, and instead of being left to hold the bag, the AF did the right thing. We didn’t need a repeat of the legal issues stemming from the tanker lease debacle a few years ago.

  • L Berry

    Anyone ever heard of the buy American Act? Sure some jbs would have been created to modify it and add couple tons of avionics so some Afgan, who couldn’t operate it, would screw it up.
    Rumors around Wright patt is DOJ will find another Darleen Druyun (Boeing Tanker fisaco). Some of these high paid SES types don’t have the integrity of a Military type. So wait on the 6’oclock news for more.

  • Twixter

    Hmm, maybe they will go for Ju-87?

  • popsiq

    How many aircraft are needed for a photo-op?

    Supplementary, are there enough ‘fully-trained’ Afghan fliers to man them?