FYI I have already been accused of writing this article in support of a foreign business entity which is in competition with an American business, however that is not the intent. The purpose is to present facts in a “fair and balanced” article and allow the reader to draw his/her own conclusion. Yes, I am prepared for blow-back.
Several days ago I ran into a flurry of outraged tweets complaining that Hawker Beechcraft’s AT-6 light attack military plane was barred from bidding on a contract by the U.S Force and that the contract had been awarded to Brazilian aircraft company Embraer for its Super Tucano A-29. The contract would be for Light Air Support (LAS) for counter-insurgency in Afghanistan.
After doing some investigation I found the primary source of the “outrage” was this article in which the author does indeed state in the title the Obama administration “sends a weapon contract” to a country with ties to Iran, namely Brazil. Yes, it’s no secret Brazil and Iran are “friendly” but I don’t believe that is relevant to this article.
Being a frequent visitor to Brazil I know their presidents would be the first to shout to the high heavens their country was awarded such a prestigious contract. After all, current Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff was the first to announce last spring one of Obama’s primary reasons for his visit there was to buy oil from them. Knowing Brazilian papers would be at this point the best source for any news, I made the short hop via the internet which I believe has led me down the correct path. And according to the Brazilian website Poder Aereo (“air power”) no contract has yet been awarded and it probably won’t happen until the end of this year. [Note: all articles on this subject begin here. They are in portuguese and to read them in English one has to go to translate google].
The spokesman for the USAF, Jennifer Cassidy, told Aviation Week that “the Air Force remains in close contact with all offerors in the competition LAS. Because the selection is ongoing, we can not comment on the condition (status) of any of the proposals. We anticipate the award of the contract in late November / early December. We will have more information so that all bidders receive their reports (the “debriefing”) following the award of the contract.
Brazil’s Embraer (a compilation of empresa Brasil aeronautica, or “Brazilian aeronautical business”) small passenger planes have a long history of being a favorite of U.S. commercial airlines for their short-hop flights. Reliable, trustworthy and economical I have flown in them many times. Embraer also builds the Super Tucano A-29, a turbo-prop which is a light, military attack plane and they have sold many around the world including to Columbia. A Super Tucano was credited with killing FARC’s second-in-command leader Paul Reyes in 2008. Now they are in the running to take a contract from the U.S.
Below is testimony from CMR James Flatley USN (retired) discussing his experience with the Super Tucano A-29 and how it is combat-proven and mission ready. FYI the AT-6 is still in prototype stage:
And just in case one assumes this contract if awarded to Embraer, would mean jobs would be taken overseas, nothing could be further from the truth. The A-29 would be built in Jacksonville, Florida and would mean high-quality engineering and technical jobs. According to Chris Brayman:
When you compare the A-29 to the AT-6 you’re comparing a proven light attack aircraft to a prototype, modified trainer. There really is no comparison in the strength and the proof of these aircraft:
Poder Aereo’s chief writer who is also a former Brazilian air force pilot, tells us why the Hawker-Beechcraft fell short and he uses Flatley’s video plus his own diagrams and charts:
And below is a chart comparing the two aircraft:
Based on the chart above, I think it is fairly clear why Hawker Beechcraft was not allowed to bid on the contract. I am a firm believer that our military and those we protect deserve the best equipment and aircraft available. And if it happens to come from a company based in another country, then so be it. Beechcraft just needs to take the mantra of one prominent car rental company and not say “we try harder, but we MUST try harder.”
The final verdict is still out on this one. I’ll keep my eyes peeled and ears open.
Crossposted at Conservative Outlooks