Program On Hold Pending Litigation
With the Light Air Support (LAS) program on hold as a suit
brought by Hawker Beechcraft makes its way through the legal
system, both sides are taking the skirmish public, and both say the
argument is principally over jobs.
Embraer Super Tucano
The Air Force had announced last week that the contract had been
awarded to Sierra Nevada Corporation, a woman-owned small business
which has partnered with Brazilian planemaker Embraer. The
companies were to build 20 Super Tucano airplanes in Jacksonville,
FL, under an initial contract worth $354 million.
Hawker Beechcraft, which builds the rival AT-6 Texan, filed suit
to stop the award, saying that the Air Force had not followed its
own contract award procedures in making its decision. Depending on
the final number of airplanes ordered, the contract could be worth
The Associated Press reports that HBC CEO Bill Boisture said
that awarding the contract to his company would have shored up as
many as 1,400 direct and indirect manufacturing jobs in Wichita,
KS, and elsewhere in the supply chain covering 39 states. He said
that without the LAS contract, HBC might once again "have to pare
down" its employee base, and "that is not our desire."
For its part, Sierra Nevada Corp., which is headquartered in
Sparks, NV, told the AP in an e-mail that its Super Tucano would
support some 1,200 direct and indirect jobs, including 50 high-tech
engineering positions at the main assembly facility in
Jacksonville. Sierra Nevada spokesman Taco Gilbert said Embraer has
had a presence in the U.S. for over 30 years with about 800
employees in the country. Embraer recently bolstered its U.S.
manufacturing bona-fides by opening an assembly plant for its
Phenom 100 bizjets in Melbourne, FL.
Boisture and HBC have enlisted the Kansas congressional
delegation in an effort to compel the Air Force to explain its
decision. In a statement on his website, Congressman Mike Pompeo
(R), who represents the Wichita area, said "Indeed, it’s also
troubling that the United States Air Force would rather have these
fighter aircraft built in another country, when jobs are needed so
badly here at home. I will continue to fight for answers on
this matter and remain committed to the men and women at Hawker
Beechcraft who build world-class aircraft.”