The USAF Takes a Decision (2)


by Ed Timperlake

How many bad press releases can one firm issue?

Hawker Beech just issued another one:

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.

So a private sector firm has announced that since they asked for a GAO review, and expect that it will be granted and results produced.

This is so wrong on so many levels.

Shouldn’t HBC have at least waited for a member of the Kansas Delegation to sign on with them if that member chooses-or is HBC flaying  about so awful that they are just are throwing threats against the wall without any Congressional curtsey extended?

Now it will look like if GAO does get involved that Congress is simply at HBC’s beck and call and all sense of comity with the Florida Delegation is a casualty of corporate bullying.

A real question is how HBC senior managers seemed to ignore the very clear requirements in the RFP for the requirements for the platform?

The opening sentence of the RFP is direct and unambiguous:

BACKGROUND AND REQUIREMENTS: LAS aircraft must be a non-developmental item (NDI) that is production-ready. No development or testing funds are available. Introduction of LAS Solicitation FA8615-10-R-6088.

As the evidence accumulated in public that the AT-6 was still in development, the US Air Force defending the integrity of the process may have quite properly removed the developmental aircraft from competition.

For example, An Aviation Week and Space Technology Headline on October11, 2011 announced “AT-6 Qualifies For Afghan Contract” says it all.

The Hawker Beechcraft AT-6 light attack and armed reconnaissance aircraft, designed to meet the U.S. Air Forces Building Partnership Capacity needs including those of the Afghanistan air force, continues to move through its end-to-end weapons validation testing with the launch of four 500-lb. GBU-12 Paveway II precision-guided bombs last week, says Derek Hess, director of the AT-6 program for Hawker Beechcraft.

And this additional smoking gun is in the article:

Validation testing of the AT-6 is continuing with employment of 250-lb. Raytheon Paveway II bombs and captive carry of the Raytheon 2.75-in.

However, to be fair, the reason why is still not known, and a very good point is raise in The DEW Line, November 22, 2011 2:26 PM, By Stephen Trimble

But what really stands out is this statement from Beechcraft: “With our partners Lockheed Martin, CMC Esterline, Pratt & Whitney Canada, L-3 WESCAM and CAE, [we] have invested more than $100 million preparing to meet the Air Force’s specific requirements.

More than [gulp!] $100 million? A couple of points to consider:

First, that’s quite an investment to win a contract for 15 turboprop-powered light attack aircraft that will be transferred to the Afghanistan air force. Sure, there could be a follow-on order for 20 aircraft to serve as trainers for USAF instructors, and other deals could follow (if the Senate can overcome its serious objections to such an aircraft). But the break-even point for this class of aircraft on a $100 million non-recurring bill must be very high.”

After burning through $100 million the AT-6 is out. It would seem that some hard questions need to be asked of the senior Hawker Beechcraft officials who made the decision to put a developmental aircraft up to meet a non-developmental aircraft RFP?

As USAF Chief of Staff Schwartz tonce old contractors: it’s time to abandon wishful thinking and “deliver what you promise.”

“Don’t blow smoke up my ass” about what a platform can do and when it will be ready, said Schwartz. “There’s no time for it,” the air chief said to a nearly silent and tense ballroom. “There’s no patience for it. OK?”