Kansas-based Hawker Beechcraft is going to court to get some answers from the US Air Force concerning its decision to disqualify Hawker’s AT-6 from competition to produce a new light attack aircraft for the US and allied militaries. The court case comes on the heels of the Government Accounting Office’s decision not to review the Air Force’s disqualification of Hawker Beechcraft. Until the Air Force abruptly announced the disqualification in November, the AT-6 was considered by many to be the frontrunner in the Air Force’s Light Air Support program. The USAF so far has not explained its decision, which leaves just one competitor in the field, Embraer and its Super Tucano. That competitor carries significant and possibly disqualifying baggage in the form of connections to the Iranian government, and a new bribery investigation. Embraer is not only controlled by the Brazilian government, it is currently under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission for possible violation of the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. That Act prohibits companies from bribing foreign officials or making other illegal payments to gain or retain business.
That investigation began in November 2011, and appears to still be in the early stages. Embraer is accused of engaging in bribery in three countries, none of which have been identified publicly. If found guilty, the company could be banned from doing any business with the US government at all. The SEC’s investigation of Embraer went public about three weeks before the Air Force disqualified Hawker Beechcraft without explanation.
Additionally, while outsourcing the contract to Embraer would create just 50 jobs in the United States, Hawker Beechcraft says the AT-6 would create about 1,400 jobs at 181 companies across 39 states. It would also keep the manufacturing and parts and supply chains all within the United States. Awarding the contract to Embraer puts most of the platform’s ecosystem outside the US. The AT-6, meanwhile, is built on the proven T-6 platform, which is currently in use by the USAF and other allied air forces. More than 700 T-6 aircraft have been built to date, and Hawker Beechcraft has built more than 14,000 aircraft for the US military overall.