U.S. acquisition mistakes put Afghan air force’s new fleet at risk

U.S. acquisition mistakes put Afghan air force’s new fleet at risk

It took an extra year and left the Air Force’s acquisition team with egg on its face, but Sierra Nevada Corp. still ended up with the $427 million contract to provide 20 light support planes to the Afghan air force.

The Air Force had to cancel the initial contract in 2011 awarded to Sierra Nevada Corp. after Beechcraft Corp. protested the award. Following the protest, the Air Force discovered mistakes made in the paper work throughout the acquisition process forcing the Pentagon to re-open the competition.

Air Force officials still chose the Super Tucano offered by Sierra Nevada Corp. and Brazil’s Embraer for a contract that could be worth up to $900 million over the life of the contract.


Because of the mistakes made by the Air Force, the contract for the 20 planes will cost U.S. taxpayers an extra $72 million and the first ones will not start arriving to Afghanistan until 2015. The original contract awarded in 2011 was for $355 million and set to have planes delivered by 2014.

However, the 2015 delivery date is the key data point because it’s unclear if U.S. Air Force trainers will still be in Afghanistan to help the Afghan air force learn how to fly the planes. President Obama set 2014 as the deadline to remove most, if not all, of America’s military footprint from Afghanistan. The president has still not decided how many U.S. troops will stay in Afghanistan after 2014 if any at all.

The Afghan air force is still at its most infant stages and will likely need as much help from the U.S. Air Force trainers to set up their fleet. Afghan pilots and maintainers are improving, but still struggle with the basics.

Unlike the situation in Iraq, the U.S. Air Force had to stand the Afghan air force up from scratch. Many of the pilots had not flown for years since the Soviets still controlled the country.

The goal of buying the Brazilian-made Super Tucanos was to offer the Afghans a simple plane to operate and provide a light attack capability against the Taliban. However, the challenge to stand up the program gets harder with the possibility of U.S. Air Force trainers not standing along side the Afghans.

The delay also threatens potential support funding. The U.S. is paying for the 20 planes, but in 2015 the amount of funding to Afghanistan’s military will drop. Afghanistan is already planning significant cuts to its force starting in 2015 once the U.S. support leaves.

It’s unclear yet where those cuts will happen, but it’s likely the Afghan air force will not avoid them.

Losing funding also means the quality of the infrastructure goes down supporting the planes. Spare parts, maintenance and facilities are all still challenges for the Afghan air force even with the brunt of U.S. military support still in Afghanistan. Maintaining the planes will get harder once the U.S. leaves by the end of 2014.

The maintenance might not get much of the attention, but that will likely be a key determinant if the Afghans can operate the Super Tucanos effectively. The Afghan military has had a hard enough time supplying spare parts for Humvees.

Plenty of “what if’s” surround the Afghan military in 2015. In the midst of that uncertainty will be the arrival of a fleet of Super Tucanos that U.S. tax payers will have spent $427 million at a time defense budgets are getting awfully tight.

Join the Conversation

The award to Embraer might help the effort to sell F-18s to Brazil.

2015 delivery will mean the Taliban will have to wait a little longer for their air force.

Why the hell do they need an airforce?

I suspect that Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai may have been more willing to contribute a larger share of the cost toward procuring a squadron of dual purpose Air Tractor AT-802 militarized light gound attack crop dusters.

From the article:

“provide a light attack capability against the Taliban”

“a larger share” of what? The Afghans already cannot afford 1/3 the military that we have built for them. They have no money for procurement of this or any other aircraft.

They don’t need it.

They need it, I just don’t think they’ll be able to use it. It will require trained pilots, trained ground crews, and lots of maintenance. Without contracted support they’ll let those things fall apart. If the Afghan government is serious about continuing to fight the Taliban, they need something that can replace our Apaches. The Tucano could fill that role if used properly.

Kristian is right. The Afghan military requires foreign investment to keep its army in uniform for at least the next several years. It comes out to a couple billion a year.

Fine with me they dont deserve squat and when we leave and in a year or two the Taliban topples the Karzi government these would be in terrorist hands anyway. SO good that we are not giving these to them.

With a 3000lb payload, they can move a lot of drugs.

The US Air Force should buy a couple of squadrons of these, or let the Army & Marines buy and operate them, themselves. With all the Dirt Wars we get into, and North Africa right around the corner, these would be just what is needed. Long loiter time, PGM’s and 1/10 the cost per flight hour over our current jet CAS platforms. It would also save putting hours on the current fleet of A-10’s & F-16’s.

YGBSM !__$427 million (and that’s just the start) for 20 planes to AFG. A country that cannot maintain it’s ground equipment — so we buy them planes ! __Pls note the Russian scap pile at AFG airfields ! Hard to believe !

This is coming from an Afghan:

It is interesting to see how folks who are thousands of miles away and have no firsthand experience of Afghanistan or the knowledge of Afghan history, type some pretty demeaning stuff about Afghanistan.

1.Let’s get something straight, Afghanistan had in the 1980s one of the strongest Air forces in Central and South Asia, totaling almost 400 combat aircrafts. So if you say that Afghans can’t fly or fight then you better read the history before you comment.

2.You guys blame Afghanistan for all the misery, consider us savages who have nothing better to do but fight each other just because we like it ??? Afghanistan was a normal country in the 1960s with a thriving civil society, but then USSR invaded us when the US started funding the Mujahiden [ Source : Ghost Wars by Steve Coll ] this created a situation where Afghanistan and the Afghan people were stuck between two super powers who were fighting to influence that part of the world. So before you start blaming Afghans, you better read the history as to who exactly started this mess. We lost over a 1 million people, destroyed infrastructure, shattered economy thanks to the US and USSR.

3.All right since you created a situation where the Taliban took over and Al-Qaeda found a safe heaven, it was not that Afghans loved the Taliban, but because the fundamentals of state were destroyed and any terrorist group could use the vacuum to take shelter in the country. Now if you want to pack ur bags and the current government collapse, then don’t blame us for all the ills, you and your government policies are the precise reason that we in this mess. You are not doing Afghans any favor by training them; you’re doing so as to pay for your historical mistakes and also as hedge for the future.

PS : We Afghans are not stupid, we know the history, but now help us, train us, we can be ur allies, we have no love for the Taliban, but we are proud people, treat us partners, we never forget, once we are strong enough, we will be ur strong allies in the regions.

// Peace

Maybe they can get some money from the poppy fields (lol).

Hey, easy fix to THAT problemo…Just bring the Afghani-ban Air Force pilots CONUS to train ‘em,…

We already know the answer to that question. They aren’t serious, because the Taliban is likely already part of their family. A bunch of wasted money for people who don’t want to fight, and don’t need an air force to fight a bunch of guys with AKs.

You guys just aren’t ready.

Well from a American here in many ways is our problem.

1) No one is saying the afghans can’t fight. Ya’ll fight damn hard. Its the skill that is the problem. Insha’allah sniper school sucks. You used to be some of the best riflemen in the world until you went to that.
So many problems culturaly. Hell took awhile to get the men to damn kneel or lay down to fire because the officers didnt want the uniforms dirty.

2) Tribe over all is the law. This cant run a modern country.

3) Iraq, Libya, Egypt, etc. Every muslim nation comes out and helps our enemies in the end no matter how nice we are to them. One of the reasons i see no reason to get invovled in Syria is that How ever deplorable the current regime and the war the Islamist will always take over.

I want ya’ll to be great the problem is the US is tired, broke and bitter from attempting to do everything for everyone and getting hammered for not being god.

BTW ya’lls big problem is Pakistan as long as they can tell you what to do your their property. To many Officials in our government from both sides refuse to recognize the different cultures and realities of the countries we see. This has lead to the problems in Iraq and afghanistan. Honestly ya’ll deserve better and a far better leader than the one you have now.

Please show us we are wrong and not everyone will betray us.

Speaking of Super Hornets, it looks like Australia has already made their decision to go ahead and purchase 12 more Super Hornets and 12 more Growlers. The Pentagon just approved a sale to Australia. All that’s needed is an official statement from Australia and some paperwork.

Link: http://​www​.stltoday​.com/​b​u​s​i​n​e​s​s​/​l​o​c​a​l​/​p​e​n​t​a​g​o​n-a

We had one purpose in Afghanistan. Find and kill the man who took down the Twin Towers and smashed into the Pentagon. Mission Accomplished. (Unlike George Jr.‘s claim about “Mission Accomplished” in Iraq.) Unless the Afghan people want to pay us to help them, it’s not our business. Maybe they can give American companies to extract their minerals and improve their commodities to help pay off all the money we spent to keep them from falling back into the Dark Ages.

We should also charge the Japanese, South Koreans, Taiwanese, Europeans, etc., the full cost of our military support. Not charging them is why the U.S. is technically bankrupt.

Wow, at that cost per plane would it not just be cheaper to acquire some old use Su-25 Frogfoots? Or for that matter MiG-21/J-7 Fishbeds. They could be acquired for a similar cost, but would be much simpler and cheaper to fly and operate. The afghans, no matter how much they want to aren’t going to be able to support the new aircraft for long once US support pulls out.

I’m surprised they didn’t buy Czech L-39ZO or ZA Albatrosses. I could have sworn that I saw picture once of the Afghan Air Force using them for training at the Afghan’s military academy on Wikipedia, but maybe it was a Photoshop scam or something?

The Iraqis are buying L-159 ALCAs from the Czechs. The L-159 is the successor to the L-39 and L-59. The problem is that the Czechs have stopped producing it and the Iraqis are just getting those that were stored. There are certainly plenty of L-39s out there, especially in the warbird market.

Those are good choices. But simply buying brand new relatively high tech planes is a bad idea. They should’ve gotten cheap and simple.

This acquisition is not primarily military. It is fundamentally a diplomatic and “nation building” effort. The US is trying to establish an elite military air corps that is loyal to the legitimate government. Providing equipment is an incentive. I’m not optimistic.

Good idea. The USAF is headed to third world capability status anyway. Let’s admit it to the world and move on. Why stop at a couple of squadrons? It may be the only way to acquire enough aircraft to keep pilots employed, and flag ranks busy. A flying club doesn’t need front line equipment. Once you admit you don’t need the best and most capable aircraft that can be made, it is a slippery slope down to skid row.

Abdul, you are delusional. All the aircraft and all the know how for that Afghan Air Force you mention was Russian. When they were pushed out, the equipment went with them. Afghanistan was in a position to start over. Apparently, they did. It just wasn’t to my liking. Now, you have another chance. Try not to screw this one up.

And who the hell cares?

This American tax payer does not care to provide the people of Afghanistan with thier own Airforce.

This plane is obviously not sexy enough for the senior jet-jocks in the USAF.

This was a purely political decision. The Beech was the better aircraft, is flown as a trainer version by many countries including our Air Force and Navy. This was all made with a view to selling F-16s to Brazil (quid pro quo).

I recommend for everyone to read two things if they want to understand the US/Afghan relationship, and the problems.

1. Gen. Stanley McCrystal’s Afghanistan Assessment (Spring 2009) to the POTUS — redacted version available on-line.

2. Seth Jones excellent book: “In the Graveyard of Empires”.

Both of them are depressing reads for a number of reasons — but at least you’ll have a better all-around idea of what happened, whats wrong, and so on. Certainly, Abdul is (regrettably) not out of bounds or inaccurate with his comments (as much as I wish that weren’t the case).

tee… Right idea, but wrong aircraft, and bad time.

Boeing’s OV-10x would be a better choice. OV-10 was designed for the purpose, is not just a worked over trainer like the Super Tucano.

OV-10 has a cockpit that sits well ahead of the leading edge of the wing, providing a much better view of the ground below. OV-10 is STOL capable, some had operated off of amphibs (no catapults) during the Vietnam war. OV-10 is a twin engine, and it is useful to have two if one engine is disabled. It can carry a larger gun in a pod under the belly, more bombs and rockets on the hard points, and much more fuel. It even has some significant light cargo capability, useful for COIN.

Regardless that, Army can’t have it under current rules, no fixed wing with forward firing weapons. Air Force doesn’t want it, as light ground attack is just not a significant priority for them. Likewise Navy (else navy would already be operating some modern CATOBAR capable variant of the Douglas XA2D-1 Skyshark that they were developing 60–65 years ago). Marines would be the most likely customer in other circumstances, but won’t likey pursue procurement of turboprop powered fixed wing light ground attack aircraft while they are still trying to buy new AH-1Z combat helos and F-35B short takeoff vertical landing variant for operation off of amphibs. It will have to wait.

No, like the Super Tucano the Hawker Beechcraft AT-6 Texan II is just a trainer that has been reworked for light ground attack. Boeing’s OV-10x would be a much better choice.

The information is completely innacurate. The first Super-Tucanos will be delivered already in 2013.

Yes, you got the point that others seemed to ignore. Afghanistan would get a lot more use from a squadron of dual purpose Air Tractor AT-802U militarized light ground attack crop dusters. Good for light ground attack and for fighting willdfires, but also good for spraying herbicides and defoliants onto poppy fields of those who haven’t paid their protection taxes into the Karzai regime.

Even with contracted support, they may have big problems. Look at the mess that has been made with the fleet of C-27A that the US was supplying to Afghanistan.

The following is a short excerpt from a recent story in Aviation Week (link below), “U.S. Air Force officials have decided not to renew a contract with Alenia North America to support and induct the small, Italian-made C-27A transport aircraft into the Afghan Air Force.” … “The moves come after what Air Force officials called failed attempts by Alenia to generate a sufficient number of fully mission-capable aircraft for effective [Afghan Air Force] airlift capability.“
http://​www​.aviationweek​.com/​A​r​t​i​c​l​e​.​a​s​p​x​?​i​d​=​/​a​rti

IF YOU CANT KILL THEM ONE WAY TRY ANOTHER! FUBO FUBAR!

A perfect plane for our AFRES. Activate them when you need light attack.

The US will leaving the Taliban wihrt a halfa$$ traiend army, and now it looks lime we will leave them a potential air force as well.…The world KNOWS that as soon as the West leaves Afhgan, the Taliban has a clear road to take ALL again.….

The same American tricks : Paying the Taliban for not shoot GIs during election, paying Kazai to kick the troops out and use it to run away from another lost war.

I think you mean F/A-18’s. But I don’t know that that is true. The Super Tucano is used in many countries as well, and though the Texan II has been successful as a trainer, I don’t know that the armed version has had much experience. Also, as for politics, there has been non-stop lobbying on behalf of the Beech proposal by the Kansas congressional delegation, and the plane still lost. Personally, I am just happy that the USAF is being practical in selecting a turboprop for the Afghan Air Force rather than trying to give them fancy jets that will surely fall apart 2 years after we leave. I suppose it is still possible (probable) that the Afghans will lack the resources to properly maintain these planes, but at least we are giving them the best possible chance to do so. Also, I just like the idea of turboprops for CAS — jets are too fast.

I say take Beechcraft Corp to court for the extra $72 million, since they were the reason for the extra cost and delays. In addition, I believe that Beechcraft should be made liable for any extra ancillary costs because of their lawsuit. I know that this will set precedence, but maybe it will deter future lawsuits over the loss of a contract.

Did you not read where the Airforace was the one that made the mistake NOT Beechcraft?? Read much?

On top of that the A-29 Super Tucano’s make a perfect manned armed ISR Aircraft, CAS and border patrol bird. It would be wise for the USAF to buy a couple of squadrons of them as well. An A-29 Super Tucano’s would be an equivalent of a manned armed ISR version or a reaper and Predator.

The Afgans have a mix of enemies in the mountains and valleys who travel the tight moutain passes.
Due to the practicalities of survival, the people and government tends to be on both sides of a conflict — creating ambiguous targets.
Tthe Afgans do need air support to protect what little stability they have and ultimately weed out bad guys from good guys. But, they don’t get expensive and complex weapon platforms like Warthogs. They actually need a good and cheap to maintain slow flying plane for working in their rugged terraine and close to the ground. So no, they don’t get top grade relatively current war technology… instead, they get a low to mid power militarized civilian aircraft that will not be much of a menace if friendlies need to return.

This is why I think the entire acquisition system should be put under receivership.

Why didn’t they go for the Let Trainer. it would be alot cheaper and the Afghans have experience with them

Hey Lance, I totaly agree with you. They do not deserve our Aircraft or our technology. Karzai govt. has collected too many $ billions form U.S. let them buy their own fleet from another source. Our Military has done a superior job more than anyone’s imagination to help these loosers. Karzai has always criticized, and always whining about the troops, he cannot even control his troops in line, especially after they attacked our troops during traing and patrolling. He never took immediate action. So, why the hell do we need to stay in Afghanistan, let them fight their own battle. The bottom line is, we need to get out for good.
Dont forget our worst enemy is Pakistan for training all the terrorists .
Peace to our troops.

It became our business when the twin towers came down. We should all have had the balls to finish properly in 1989 after the Soviet Union was expelled, but internationally the world community turned its back on Afghanistan with predicable results when we could have done this on the cheap in, in blood and treasure 1989/1990 onward.

In the words of former Sec of Def Robert Gates referring to WW II and others ” Every time America turns inward we get in some really big wars” Isn’t almost 3000 on 9/11 enough for you?. Have we learned nothing? Ignore now and pay in spades latter. What if America had aggressively stood behind the Brits, French and Poles and told Hitler to shut up and sit down. For a “taxpayer” — Peace in our time and balancing the budget is penny wise and pound foolish. Its not the Afghans in the dark ages, but rather an isolationist policy like the one that the US and the UN which is subservient to to brutal and bungling Russian Policy in Syria. Sadly, we will all pay for this somehow in the end with even more extreme extremists who feel the international community has turned their back on Syria and perversely believe their extremism is a solution. Lovely!. In the words of former Sec of Def Robert Gates referring to WW II and others ” Every time America turns inward we get in some really big wars” such as more Afghanistan and Iraqs though lack of real leadership in standing up for our own principles when push comes to shove. Maybe you just like the idea of peace in our time and balancing the budget when disaster is on our doorstep until it goes off like an IED or dirty bomb?. My late grandmother would refer to people with reasoning such as this as “not right wise

*required

NOTE: Comments are limited to 2500 characters and spaces.

By commenting on this topic you agree to the terms and conditions of our User Agreement

AdChoices | Like us on , follow us on and join us on Google+
© 2014 Military Advantage
A Monster Company.