SPARKS, NV, February 15, 2012 – Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) today announced that it is exploring ways to mitigate delays in meeting the April 2013 delivery schedule for the first aircraft called for under United States Air Force Light Air Support (LAS) contract.   SNC was awarded that contract in late December, but due to a lawsuit filed by the disqualified competitor for the contract, has been prevented from initiating work.  In a briefing paper issued in late January, the Air Force acknowledged that it expected delivery of the aircraft to be delayed due to the current litigation.

The aircraft to be provided is the Embraer A-29 Super Tucano.  It will be used in Afghanistan to conduct advanced flight training, aerial reconnaissance and light air support operations.  It is integral to U.S. plans to provide the Afghanistan government with an indigenous advanced training and combat capable aircraft to facilitate that country’s internal security capability.

In an article published Jan. 15, Brig. Gen. Tim Ray, the NATO Air Training Command-Afghanistan commander, called the A-29 Super Tucano “tailor made” for the Afghan’s counterinsurgency mission. “The Tucano is the most kinetic, most offensive aircraft they’ll have, and I’m sure a big morale boost to the troops on the ground when they see it overhead. It’s the right kind of platform for the terrain, the fight and most importantly, it’s easy to sustain,” he said.

“We recognize the importance of this aircraft to successfully ending the U.S. mission in Afghanistan,” said Taco Gilbert, Ret. USAF Brigadier General, and Vice President of ISR Business Development at SNC.  “Given the stakes and given recent reports of a potentially accelerated end to U.S. combat operations there, we are looking at all possible options for speeding up our production and delivery timeline.  However, until the stop work order is lifted, we cannot make any movement in this regard.”

The U.S. Air Force issued a temporary stop work order January 4 in response to a lawsuit filed by Hawker Beechcraft in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. That suit challenges Hawker’s elimination from the LAS competition.  The Air Force notified Hawker Beechcraft in November that its proposal was not in the competitive range and that it had been disqualified from the competition.  The Air Force based its determination on the finding that “multiple deficiencies [PDF] and significant weaknesses found in [Hawker Beechcraft’s] proposal make it technically unacceptable and results in unacceptable mission capability risk.”

The A-29 Super Tucano is mission ready and combat proven.   It is currently in use with six air forces around the world, performing counterinsurgency and close air support operations.  The LAS aircraft will be made in America by American workers.  Embraer is investing millions of dollars in the development of a new military aircraft production facility in Jacksonville, FL, creating at least 50 new high tech jobs in the process.  More than 88 percent of the dollar value of the A-29 Super Tucano comes from components supplied by American companies or countries that qualify under the Buy America Act.  In all, more than 70 U.S. companies will supply parts or services related to this contract, supporting another 1,200+ jobs across the country.

“SNC, Embraer, and all of our team members are committed to the LAS mission and to bringing a successful close to U.S. operations in Afghanistan,” Gilbert said.  “However, this will only happen if we can equip the Afghanis with the tools and training they need to develop their own counterinsurgency capability.  We are looking at how we can speed up our process; we hope that there will be a swift resolution to the litigation and an end to unnecessary delays of this critical program.”