Colorado, Florida come to Embraer’s defense

Colorado, Florida come to Embraer’s defense

Beechcraft has turned to its state lawmakers in a last ditch effort to wrest a $427 million contract away from Embraer and Sierra Nevada to build light air support aircraft for Afghanistan’s infantile air force.

As is often the crux of most of these disputes, the debate has turned to jobs. The Kansas senators and Congressional representatives that have come to Beecraft’s aid have spent less time arguing that Beechcraft makes a better plane and more time arguing about where the 1,400 jobs associated with the program will land.

“When it comes to producing aircraft that will help Americans come home from Afghanistan, the U.S. Air Force today concluded that America’s ‘best interest’ now rests on the shoulders of Brazil,” Beechcraft said in a statement in February.

The U.S. is funding the program to build 20 light air support aircraft for the Afghan air force. The U.S. Air Force is overseeing the program. Service officials chose Embraer’s A-29 Super Tucano over Beechcraft’s AT-6 in February.

It was the second time the Air Force chose Embraer and Sierra Nevada over Beechcraft. In 2011, when Beechcraft was Hawker Beechraft, the Air Force chose Embraer.  However, the proposal filed by Hawker Beechcraft was upheld because of paperwork errors made by Air Force acquisition leaders.

Beechcraft has again filed a protest following the February decision. The Government Accountability Office (GAO), is reviewing the protest.

Embraer is a Brazilian-based company. Defense analysts have pointed out that Beechcraft’s argument falls flat because Embraer plans to build the planes in Jacksonville, Fla., and Sierra Nevada will build the the avionics package for the planes in Centennial, Colo.

Because of the potential jobs in Florida and Colorado, the lawmakers from those states have jumped into the fray. Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Bill Nelson, D-Fla., and Reps. Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla., and Corrine Brown, D-Fla.,wrote Hagel a letter in support of moving forward with the program.

“We know that you understand the urgency of this situation and we applaud the determination of the Air Force to move forward with this program despite numerous delays,” the lawmakers wrote.

Of course, those delays mean the planes will not arrive into Afghanistan until 2015, which will likely mean the U.S. advisers will not be in place to help teach the Afghans to fly and maintain the plane. The 2011 contract stipulated that the planes arrive in Afghanistan by 2014.

Beechcraft is threatening to tie up the program in court. Company officials have already filed a lawsuit in the Court of Federal Claims to appeal the U.S. Air Force decision. Beecraft has only recently escaped bankruptcy.

The U.S. Air Force had instituted a Stop Work Order on the program when Beechcraft’s protest was initially filed. Upon review by the Pentagon, the Stop Work Order has been lifted and Beechcraft signed the lease on the Jacksonville plant.

Sens. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., and Pat Roberts, R-Kan. and Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., wrote a letter to Hagel to express their displeasure with the decision to press forward with the program despite GAO officials still reviewing the protest.

“To proceed with a contract that may not stand up before the GAO is a waste of taxpayer dollars and an affront to good governance,” the Kansas lawmakers wrote.

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Which aircraft is really better?

They each have certain characteristics that are better. It just happens that the Super Tucano is better on those that the Air Force considers more important, and that were specified in the call for proposals. For instance, Super-Tucano is in production and deployed worldwide for many years, unlike the AT-6. It also have internal guns, while the AT-6 needs to use a hard-point for its gun, sacrificing missiles or fuel. The AT-6 is a bit faster, but in this case what’s is important is how slow it can (safely) fly, so it can loiter over combat areas with higher accuracy when delivering ordinance. Perhaps the Super-Tucano’s greatest advantage is that is can safely take off and land on very precarious landing strips, like dirt roads, which are the best one can hope for in some of Afghanistan remote areas. The AT-6, which much lower ground clearance, smaller stance and smaller landing gear, needs improved runways.

I’m not so sure that is an accurate statement that the AT-6 needs improved runways. They demonstrated they could land on a dry lake bed and be refueled by a C-130. I don’t know how much more ground clearance the Super Tucano has, but I have to wonder what would happen if they hit something with that much height on an unimproved runway if they would still have enough control to safely land it. The AT-6 is also millions of dollars cheaper for the American taxpayer. Left to their own devices, the Afghans would have chosen something far cheaper than the AT-6.

One can’t help but wonder how much influence other departments had on the selection since the government of Brazil made it clear that choosing the AT-6 over the Super Tucano would directly affect the selection process for a new fighter that Boeing is competing for. Beechcraft is struggling to stay in business in the wake of the assault on their bizjet customers, so it is hard to blame them if they see a fundamental unfairness in the selection process.

The Brazilians are looking to purchase a passel of new fighters, of which the F/A-18 is one. That deal would prove far more lucrative, provide more jobs, with a longer lasting impact than what would ever happen with the purchase of 20 AT-6’s.

The ground clearance is about 50% more on the Super Tucano, which allows for larger, low-pressure tires. There’s a post, somewhere, about the fly-off both machines had a year or two ago, describing in detail the differences in handling the take-off and landing. It was not in this forum however, I’m still looking for it…

I agree with you on the external influences, but that’s prevalent on any procurement process. It would be a shame if Beechcraft went out of business, there’s too much consolidation in the defense industry and diversification of vendors spurs competition, but in the other hand the Air Force is not in the business of keeping companies afloat.
The Super Tucano would generate a similar amount of jobs in the US, nullifying another one of Beechcraft’s many arguments. Beyond that, if the deal for the new jet fighters for Brazil goes to Boeing, it would be thousands and thousands more jobs, and billions and billions more dollars into the US economy. Plus it would bring the Brazilians more aligned with the US. Strategically, this deal has many advantages.

Come on guy’s:
We have to get Oscar Uniform Tango out of “the Stan” post 2014! Selection of either of these aircraft will require a PMCS skillset 4 A & P maint. + avionics cal. + facilities & log support for it all that is not organic to the ANA or any where in-country for that manner. Let the Brazilians, with their activist BRIC nation foreign policy shoulder the whole sheet storm that it will be, or turn out to be! We have to get out of the “Bring home the Bacon” mentality for our elected officals in D.C & develop a coherant Foreign Policy that our Armed Forces can plan, equip & train 4 to execute in OUR BEST NATIONAL INTEREST period!

“Beechcraft has turned to its state lawmakers in a last ditch effort to wrest a $427 million contract away from Embraer and Sierra Nevada to build light air support aircraft for Afghanistan’s infantile air force.”

The endless struggle by Congresscritters for pork notwithstanding, it doesn’t matter what the US buys and gifts to Afghanistan. After the US leaves, and MRO work on those airframes is turned over to the Afghan locals, the frames will all very shortly become unflightworthy, and they’ll be stripped for scrap metal to be hammered into hand tools.

It works the same way with humanitarian relief. Go talk to anyone who has time in grade with a Western NGO that has tried to improve conditions in the Third World. You’ll hear endless sad stories about things like flashy new solar powered well pumps set up in villages in the back end of nowhere at enormous expense. With careful training for the villagers on how to keep it all going. Followed by, a year or so later, the mechanisms breaking down for lack of attention, and the villagers reverting to their traditional means of animal and human muscle power to move water.

Civilization isn’t about technological artifacts so much as it is about attitudes and mindsets. The US has not stayed in Afghanistan long enough to alter the deeply graven mindsets there. None of the “change” forcibly impressed upon the Afghan locals will be durable, as a result of this. None of the technological change, and none of the legal and cultural change. Sad but true. They’ll rapidly revert to having donkeys doing half the work, and women treated worse than donkeys doing the rest of it.


The landing gear, ground clearance and smaller stance is robust enough to be used by clumsy students without undue hazard. It’s not an issue.

The AT-6 can land on unimproved runways. Saying otherwise is disingenuous. It’s like making the assault weapon argument because a weapon has a flash suppressor.

As to speed, the two aircraft have very similar speed/endurance/loiter capability.

The AT6B is 40% cheaper.

The Tocano has more fans…

The Brazilians aren’t going to pick a US fighter. Mark my words…

The Brazilians aren’t going to buy a US fighter for many of the same reasons the Indians didn’t (though I doubt they’ll buy Russian).

The jobs in the states is unproven. The specifics of what “manufactured” in the US is haven’t been set. Doing assembly vs manufacture isn’t going to employ an equal number.

The AT6B is 40% cheaper.

What are the specifics of clearance? If the AT6B clearance is 4′ (plenty) a 50% increase to 6′ isn’t significant.

Sorry, guys, ground clearance is nice but for most rough field operations its “stroke” that might be the major difference. If Im going down that sloppy runway just short of Vr, with a couple tons of underwing ordnance, and hit a pothole, will the stroke let the ordnance drag and will it be sufficient to avoid breaking the main spar? Watch the Russian demos where they taxi ACROSS the taxiways and through the grass or a trap landing for an F/A-18 with stores aboard and you will see what I mean.


And why not that again? Better payload it has better range, cheaper to operate, far more rugged than either of those.……


I am inclined to agree with the tone of your statement, which I read to be like the reason “Curly” of the Three Stooges said he ate burnt toast and rotten eggs. It was because he had a tapeworm and that was good enough it. The Air Tractor is good enough for ‘em.

Hell, neither of these airplanes is worth crap. They’d be a heluva lot better off to buy a DC-3 that had been re-engined with turbines, putting a minigun in the cargo door. At least a DC-3 could take off from a hot, high altitude airfield with gas and a belt of ammo. That’s a lot more than can be said for either the AT-6 or Sucker Tucker.

We need to get out of the mindset that we have to solve the worlds problems, or even that we can solve them. The only way for other countries to improve is for them to improve themselves.

I doubt that the pro-Karzai people will be able to protect the aircraft while on the ground for more than a couple of weeks and that the aircraft will quickly be taken out by his opponents. We all know it’s going to be a free for all once we pull the majority of our troops out just like what happened when we left Vietnam. The politicians used military forces as large security forces to protect themselves instead of fighting a war and we know how well that worked out.

Why not? It seems to be the most sensible option for them. The Rafale offered by the French is much more expensive, and the Swedish offering (Grippen?) is not quite fully developed. Plus Embraer already has some sort of cooperation agreement with Boeing, and offsetting even a tiny part of the production to Brazil could seal the deal,

well Brazilians do not trust the American Congress because they can block certain key features that the Brazilians want in the technology transfer. Also historically because the Super Tucano has American parts inside of the plane the US Congress blocked a sale of the Super Tucanos to Venezuela and that dealt a blow to Embraer. I say that they are just compensating for that and I know that the Brazilian jet deal is a multi-billion dollar deal. We’ll see how this will turn out, I know the Brazilian pilots prefer the Super Hornet over the competitors.

Why not?

There are PLENTY of choices. Supercruise and no strings (we tend to dumb down or use parts as a foreign policy weapon). Brazil wants to come out among nations. BTW, the Saab Gripen is fine and replaced F18C’s.

Check out Andre’s tone and argument down below. He’s not unique.

I think more P-40 Warhawk and less AC-47/AC-130 gunship is the key here.

Did you ever think we may have questions about Brazil when it wants to sell arms to Chavez? Are you really surprised the US Congress might have a problem with sending parts for combat aircraft to Chavez?

Agree on you tech transfer point (but again, look above).

I agree with you that US Congress should act in the United State’s best interest, however that did put a blow on jobs in Brazil and conflicted with their interests. Foreign Policy is a pain in the ass but when it affects jobs anywhere in the world people tend to remember the choices made. So Brazil knows for a fact they can be blocked any time they sell those airplanes by the US Congress if the sale goes against US Foreign Policy and that makes this whole situation super interesting. I just want to find out what will happen that’s it.

Yes, it’s an excellent question, but if that same question was still being debated and counter-sued against today — between the YF-16 and YF-17, as replacements for the F-4 — the USAF would be screwed!!!

Order a system which meets your requirements and which is mature and move on…

If later on down the road, it turns out the other guy can actually indeed build a better and cheaper alternative for you…then by all means, that’s what the US Congress is for!!! Make a switch down the road accordingly and always remain flexible in making prudent acquisition decisions, duh.

Since this is supposedly going to the Afghans who are going to let it fall in disrepair or be sold for scrap it’s beneficial to peel the onion back in the event we ever get smart enough to consider a cheap prop plane for CAS. The debate might be instructional.

Chavez is dead.

Can the whole deal. Sequestration has set in and we need to cut the war budget. Plus the argument that Afghanistan has no money and won’t support these aircraft for very long is spot on. Other than temp jobs in the US or Brazil, this is a typical jobs program. The only difference is this is White House pork. Spending money we borrowed from China (and for which our grandchildren will be paying the debt and interest), to buy airplanes from Brazil, that will be used to protect the poppy fields in Afghanistan, which will show up in drug addicts in America! What a G-R-E-A-T foreign policy we have!

I think the US Should acquire the A-29 as well. They make a perfect ISR and Manned version of a predator as well. We need something like that and can be used for COIN ops and help train allied Air forces as well.

Why, just in case the terrorist air force is operating a fleet of Japanese Zeros in the desert? The DC-3 would be the better ground support vehicle by far.

I trust the Air Force to make the right decision. Beech has now had not 1 but 2 bites at the apple and has lost both times. Let’s get this program moving and get those Super Tucanos to the Afghans.

Look on the bright side guys (NE tern for guys and gals) when not supporting the Afgan army they can be used to run drugs. I wonder what civilian contractor will get the contract to support and repair the aircraft. As for the post “I trust the air force to make the right decision”, sure and I trust the air force not to lose any nukes. I wonder what
retired 0 whatever is currently being hired by the plane’s contract or has setup a support company. It’s all about $$$‘s “guys” not their dollars but us “guys” dollars. Dollars to poppy seeds the twenty air craft will cost as much as the F35 program. Ha, ha, just joking nothing could cost that much, LCR’s, DDG1000, etc, etc.

Just finished training in the T-6 for the Navy, I can say the only maintenance issue the T-6 ever faced was blown tires. It has little chicken leg gear with small tires to boot, and when a planes is making 50–60 rough landings a day to train a green pilot those things blow like crazy. Not sure what the AT-6 looks like in comparison, but in the two years we have been flying them there have been zero class A mishaps nor any significant maintenance problem with the other systems. Damn fun to fly too! Don’t know much about the Tocano, but it should come down to price and ease of maintenance if the performance capabilities are close.


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