The AT-6 Saga Continues


by Ed Timperlake

Almost like a soap opera with no end, the AT-6 saga continues.  Chronicled on this website and on the Second Line of Defense Forum, we have looked at the continuing efforts to get a Light Attack Support (LAS) aircraft into the hands of the Afghans before it no longer matters.

In the course of this saga, Hawker Beechcraft, the manufacturer of the AT-6, has done many things, but among the more noteworthy are various PR fumbles.

The most recent one comes from an unnamed Hawker Beechcraft (HBC) official, who stated flat out “not even a front-line fighter could meet the requirements” set by the USAF in the competition.

Yet the Embraer Air, A-29 SuperTucano, did just that and does that worldwide everyday.

The SuperT was selected to meet the LAS competition requirements.

Super Tucanos flying in formation.

The two A-29s are seen flying in a Section or a two plane formation. There are over 150 SuperT’s flying world wide, many airborne right now, demonstrating ongoing day/night all-weather combat success.  They are flying in sections or divisions (4 aircraft together). The AF calls that a “fourship” formation over many countries.

But HBC would not be able to post a picture of an AT-6  fourship formation because that many combat ready planes do not even exist.

Just when one would think that Hawker Beechcraft could not make further questionable PR statements in trying to win the AF LAS contract to equip the Afghan Army Air Force,they do so again.

(For an earlier look at this behavioral pattern see“fumble”-in-the-super-tucano-vs-at-6-public-fight/).

And they are doing all this as the President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil is preparing to visit with President Obama. And along the way, Hawker Beechcraft decided to pick a fight with Brazilian female fighter pilots. Definitely an interesting strategy, when dealing with a female President of Brazil, which one might note is now the 6th largest global economy, and one increasingly concerned with the Chinese approach to the global economy.  It is also a key ally in what could become a Western hemispheric energy policy sweeping down from the Arctic, to Canada, to Mexico, to Brazil, and to Argentina. .

The  PR statement is reported on Friday March 23, 2012, concerning an Air Force announcement in delaying their investigation and was captured by Andrea Shalal-Esa, writing for Reuters with a quote from HBC that is unbelievable and has the tone of total desperation about it:

“Air Force extends probe of Afghan plane deal”

“Air Force General Donald Hoffman, commander of Air Force Materiel Command, granted investigators more time to look into the issue, said spokeswoman Jennifer Cassidy

…..Hawker insists that its AT-6 plane is the most capable, affordable and sustainable light attack aircraft on the market. (on what proven market?) The company is urging the Air Force to revise its requirements for the light attack planes, arguing that not even front-line U.S. fighter jets could meet the requirements as written.”,0,506963.story

But the reality is that the USAF and the US Government have a major stake in re-enforcing the credibility of the competition process. The USAF General investigating the LAS selection process has asked for more time.

In doing so he has the moral, ethical and legal responsibility to send a powerful signal to Brazil and the world about the integrity of American defense acquisition initiatives.

To be fair and transparent, General Hoffman should appropriately take the extra time in order start at the initial point of the competition. It must be fully investigated and HBC’s actions from the outset examined.

In the opening paragraph of the RFP solicitation for entry into competition, it was required that the aircraft entered must be a non-developmental, production ready, with no USG funds allowed LAS aircraft.  By their own statements, HBC has indicated that they entered a developmental aircraft.

If General Hoffman does NOT address this initial mistake then countries that team with American firms must think twice about a level playing field.

Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC)  and Embraer are in partnership and are going up against HawkerBeechcraft which is controlled by Goldman Sachs and Onyx a Canadian investment firm.

Failure to address the totality of the process will suggest to the world that the American Defense market is not as open as claimed by the Administration. Especially after the USAF tanker selection process, this is not the signal one would want to send out.

It is that direct and simple and I suspect the Defense Minister and President of Brazil might see it the same way on their visit to discuss with President Obama the State of the World.  Nothing less than the credibility of the US government and the Administration is at stake.

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