Hawker Beechcraft Sues Over Air Force Contract

Hawker Beechcraft Corp. is suing the U.S. government over its exclusion from a competition to build a light attack aircraft, a contract worth nearly $1 billion.

WICHITA, Kansas (AP) -- Hawker Beechcraft Corp. is suing the U.S. government over its exclusion from a competition to build a light attack aircraft, a contract worth nearly $1 billion.

The Wichita Eagle (http://bit.ly/twBDc6 ) reported that the suit was filed Tuesday with the U.S. Court of Federal Claims after the Government Accountability Office dismissed Hawker Beechcraft's initial protest. The suit alleges the exclusion was "arbitrary and capricious" and seeks to prevent the government from awarding a contract until Beechcraft can make its case in court.

A Pentagon spokesman declined to comment on the issue because the matter was "pending under litigation."

The Wichita-based aircraft manufacturer had hoped its AT-6, an armed version of its T-6 trainer, would be chosen for the Light Air Support Counter Insurgency aircraft for the Afghanistan National Army Corps. The chosen aircraft also would be used as a light attack armed reconnaissance aircraft for the U.S. Air Force.

"We think we were wrongfully excluded from the competition," Hawker Beechcraft CEO Bill Boisture said Tuesday. "We don't understand the basis for the exclusion, and frankly, we think we've got the best airplane. "So we're going to take every avenue available to us to make sure our product is fully evaluated and recognized for what it is. . There are several issues here that just, frankly, don't make sense."

In dismissing Hawker Beechcraft Corp from the competition last month, the Air Force found Hawker Beechcraft's bid "technically unacceptable," one that would result in an "unacceptable mission capability risk." It did not give more detail, and the company has been trying to learn the reason for the action.

But the Air Force said the company missed a three-day deadline to file a request for a debriefing and a 10-day deadline to file a protest, the GAO's report said.

"That's what the Air Force is alleging," Boisture said. "There comes a point, though, where the facts of the matter would seem to be more important than the procedural correctness."

Hawker Beechcraft said it had been working with the Air Force for two years and had invested more than $100 million to meet the Air Force's requirements for the plane. It noted that the Beechcraft AT-6 had been found capable of meeting the requirements in a demonstration program led by the Air National Guard.

"Every fixed-wing pilot in the United States military today is trained on this airplane," Boisture said.

Hawker Beechcraft has said that winning the contract would keep its T-6 production line running after 2015. About 1,400 employees in 20 states -- including 800 at Hawker Beechcraft in Wichita -- work on the AT-6 and T-6 programs for Beechcraft and its U.S. suppliers and partners.

The exclusion decision leaves the A-29 Super Tucano built by Brazil's Embraer as the lone contender for the initial contract to supply 35 with the potential for 55 aircraft worth up to $950 million, which does not include foreign sales. Embraer has formed a partnership with Nevada-based Sierra Nevada Corp. and has said it would build the turboprop in Jacksonville, Florida, should it win the contract.

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