Super Tucano Vs AT-6—The Never Ending Story

There has been a year delay in the introduction of a much needed combat proven aircraft into a combat theater with America at war—this is unconscionable.

Ed Timperlake

As the Editor of Sldforum.com and a writer for Saldinfo.com I have to correct one of my previous columns on the “fake it to you make it” saga of Hawker Beechcraft and their entry of the AT-6 into the USAF LAS competition.

On November 20th , 2011, I wrote the following—

“BACKGROUND AND REQUIREMENTS: LAS aircraft must be a non-developmental item (NDI) that is production-ready. No development or testing funds are available. ” Introduction of LAS Solicitation FA8615-10-R-6088”

In response to the Air Force decision Hawker Beechcraft immediately issued what may go down in history as one of the worst press statement ever made. Not only does the press release demonstrate why they were eliminated HBC may also find out, by their own words that any legal recourse for any protests are staggeringly bad.”

http://www.sldinfo.com/the-usaf-makes-a-decision/

HBC has just published a Press Statement that tops their previous one and is now one of the worst press statements ever made. Where HBC is concerned I should be careful in using absolutes like “go down in history as one of the worst” –This current one is now worst but there more may be on the way.

http://www.bizjournals.com/prnewswire/press_releases/2011/12/27/NY27581

To amplify HBC Corporate thinking Molly McMillin of The Wichita Eagle on Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2011, does a very good job in allowing CEO Bill Boisture to explain why HBC filed suit

“We think we were wrongfully excluded from the competition,” said Hawker Beechcraft CEO Bill Boisture. “We don’t understand the basis for the exclusion, and frankly, we think we’ve got the best airplane.

“So we’re going to take every avenue available to us to make sure our product is fully evaluated and recognized for what it is. … There are several issues here that just, frankly, don’t make sense.”

“We do not know why we were excluded,” Boisture said.

The company filed an inquiry with the GAO for a review of the exclusion and a protest.
In its dismissal of Hawker Beechcraft’s protest, the Air Force said the company missed a three-day deadline to file a request for a debriefing and a 10-day deadline to file a protest, the GAO’s report said.

“That’s what the Air Force is alleging,” Boisture said. “There comes a point, though, where the facts of the matter would seem to be more important than the procedural correctness.”

Boisture gave these reasons that the decision must have been based on a minor problem.

http://www.kansas.com/2011/12/27/2153890/hawker-beechcraft-files-suit-over.html#storylink=cpy

So the President of an aircraft manufacturing firm that submitted an aircraft still in development into a “non-developmental” LAS Solicitation claims that two professional organizations, the USAF and the GAO, one in the Executive Department the other in the Legislative Branch are both wrong.

But wait it gets better, the President of HBC is stating HBC is filing a law suit requesting that a third branch of Government the Judiciary should now get involved—but the Judge should ignore both “procedural issues” and issues of material merit-“minor problems.” -

As the GAO determined–

“After reviewing HBDC’s responses to issues raised during discussions, the Air Force concluded that HBDC had not adequately corrected deficiencies in its proposal. In this regard, the agency concluded that “multiple deficiencies and significant weaknesses found in HBDC’s proposal make it technically unacceptable and results in unacceptable mission capability risk.”

http://www.gao.gov/decisions/bidpro/406170.htm

One of the most fundamental rules written in blood in USAF/USN/USMC aviation safety is that procedures correctly followed save lives. An aviation manufacturing firm that can not follow simple and spelled out administrative procedures is not making a good argument. Requesting a Federal Judge to over look HBC ignoring “procedures” is not a case aviation professionals should be making. In fact it is down right scary they would even think this way.

On the merits of the AT-6 having “minor problems”—The AT-6 was submitted as a “non-developmental” aircraft, but  according to the widely respected Aviation Week and Space Technology that initial action is simply factually wrong. The AT-6 was making news that they were still in development as late as October 20, 2011

“AT-6 Qualifies For Afghan Contract”

http://www.aviationweek.com/aw/generic/story_channel.jsp?channel=defense&id=news/asd/2011/10/11/04.xml

Finally, in entering a “fake it till you make it aircraft” HBC is also reaching by making an investment banking beneficiary crony capitalism argument —it is all about jobs. Tell that to the assembly line workers watching their HBC jobs go to Mexico and/or China-

http://www.sldforum.com/2011/05/an-historic-pr-%e2%80%9cfumble%e2%80%9d-in-the-super-tucano-vs-at-6-public-fight/

The real facts that President Boisture thinks , “don’t make sense” is that under his leadership of HBC there has been a year delay in the introduction of a much needed combat proven aircraft into a combat theater with America at war. This is unconscionable.

The good news, if any law suit goes forward, discovery is a two way street and the AF and GAO have diligent investigators and true professionals that can get to the bottom of ALL the facts since by  HBC’s own press release the AT-6 was not production ready when submitted because they admit testing funds are being expended.

It will be interesting to see if the Law suit is dismissed with prejudice.

LAS aircraft must be a non-developmental item (NDI) that is production-ready. No development or testing funds are available. ” Introduction of LAS Solicitation FA8615-10-R-6088”

Bookmark this article.


8 responses to Super Tucano Vs AT-6—The Never Ending Story

  1. SpudmanWP wrote:

    Does being an NDI item preclude the MFG from doing its own testing, or does it just mean that the USG will not pay for it (as is implied)?

    When does it have to be “Production-Ready”, at the time of contract signing or after (specified or not)?

    • Ed wrote:

      Spudman-

      I am not an attorney but you asked an extremely insightful question and I am sure the best lawyers that an Investment Banking Firm can hire will also be raising many more such issues.

      http://www.hawkerbeechcraft.com/investor_relations/board_of_directors/

      All I can comment on is personal experience and a simple understanding of a sentence-

      First personal experience–I have been part of multi-million dollar lawsuits while in Government service working with DOD/IG, VA/IG, and FBI and DOJ. So by calling into question the judgement and integrity of the USAF– arrayed against HBC and Investment Banking Lawyers will be DOJ lawyers assigned the case. In my professional judgement DOJ is up to the task of defending the USG acquisition process by getting to the all facts.

      Additionally, HBC just picked a very public fight with the judgement and integrity of the GAO which maybe considered by a lot of DC professionals as an interesting approach.

      I have also been on both ends of the GAO—initiating GAO investigations of Executive Department programs and procedures as a member of the Professional Staff on the House Committee on Rules and also being involved with GAO audits while in serving in the Reagan Administration, the Bush (41) Administration, and President Bush (43) Administration–The GAO is universally respected as one of the most professional organizations in any branch of Government.

      Again not being an Attorney but the below statement reads in the present tense-so a lay reading would be that the submission of the LAS AT-6 aircraft must be “production-ready” on the date submitted—

      LAS aircraft must be a non-developmental item (NDI) that is production-ready. No development or testing funds are available. ” Introduction of LAS Solicitation FA8615-10-R-6088”

      The fact is that among other deficiencies (see weight and balance issue) when the LAS Solicitation was offered the AT-6 was not production ready nor certified for weapons release. The Super Tucano was in production and had demonstrated very credible combat capabilities.

      Now on to some very interesting issues which may or may not become part of the HBC initiated lawsuit-

      Did any US Government entity subsidize HBC by using their testing regime?

      Did this process allow a public defense by HBC to try and influence the acquisition process that the AT-6 was production ready-when it obviously was not? –“No development or testing funds are available.”

      Who was paid to lobby Congress for earmarks and set asides in fact or in practice?–did the person register. Were there Congressional earmarks and set asides for the AT-6 and did that violate the LAS solicitation?

      Did someone improperly influence the field test to eliminate weapons delivery (At-6 was not certified to drop ordinance)-if so who and why?

      What role if any has Goldman Sachs played with House or Senate Members on this issue?

      Did Canadian Investment Banking firm have any influence direct or indirect with American Political Process?

      The danger for HBC and their Executives in that by initiating legal action there are significant laws that based on the evidence developed that may come into play- I am not alleging anything just informing our readers–

      Taken from Federal Acquisition Regulations—

      52.214-4 False Statements in Bids.

      As prescribed in 14.201-6(b)(2), insert the following provision in all invitations for bids:

      False Statements in Bids (Apr 1984)

      Bidders must provide full, accurate, and complete information as required by this solicitation and its attachments. The penalty for making false statements in bids is prescribed in 18 U.S.C. 1001.

      Criminal Resource Manual 908 Elements of 18 U S Code

      Elements of 18 U.S.C. § 1001
      Section 1001′s statutory terms are violated if someone:
      1. “falsifies, conceals or covers up by any trick, scheme or device a material fact,”
      2. “makes any false, fictitious or fraudulent statements or representations,”
      3. “makes or uses any false writing or document knowing the same to contain any false, fictitious or fraudulent statement or entry”
      4. and, for cases arising after the 1996 amendments, the item at issue was material.
      Whether the above acts are criminal depends on whether there is an affirmative response to each of the following questions:
      1. Was the act or statement material?
      2. Was the act within the jurisdiction of a department or agency of the United States? and
      3. Was the act done knowingly and willfully?

      Editor Sldforum.com

  2. SpudmanWP wrote:

    Thanks for the info. I have read elsewhere (not sure if it was one of your links) that the GAO’s denial of the review rested primarily on HBC not responding within the time period required to submit a protest. Their claim is that the notification was sent to a a temp address that was latter forwarded to their true address. There is a who bunch of issues as to which is the address of record vs advertised address vs what regs say is the primary address to use etc.

    This should be fun.

    • Ed wrote:

      The GAO-see link below “fanged”-which is a fighter pilot expression for nailing HBC and they presented essentially two reasons-you are correct HBC was found FUBAR on following procedures. The GAO determined that the AT-6 was technically unacceptably and mission capability was at unacceptable risk!

      From the GAO -

      “After reviewing HBDC’s responses to issues raised during discussions, the Air Force concluded that HBDC had not adequately corrected deficiencies in its proposal. In this regard, the agency concluded that “multiple deficiencies and significant weaknesses found in HBDC’s proposal make it technically unacceptable and results in unacceptable mission capability risk.”

      http://www.gao.gov/decisions/bidpro/406170.htm

      The “The Dog ate my homework defense” is unacceptable and also a fair read may lead the American taxpayer to see it as contrived issue. Following procedures in aviation is everything, literally life and death—so no excuses.

      A Billon dollar Aviation Manfacturing firm that is competing for a significant contract has “address” problems. Perhaps the USG should aso look into this event as a last ditch manuver to contrive an issue in order to build the case for their lawsuit-

      Is this abuse of process?

      http://definitions.uslegal.com/a/abuse-of-process/

      There can be no excuses for HBC not following proper USG/USAF procedures-

      I had to eject at night under 1000 feet (I got almost a full swing in the chute) out of a fireball from a twin engine Navy jet-the T2-B “Buckeye.” My jet caught fire and exploaded because the navy maintenance crew did not follow procedures. They over torqued my fuel line from the fuel pump to the engine and on a night takeoff right after gear flaps up—the line sheered and sprayed JP all over both engines–it was an interesting night in a burning swamp.

      Editor Sldforum

  3. SpudmanWP wrote:

    Thanks again for the followup and links.

    Glad you made it out ok and look forward to more of your columns.

    Last question (yeah right), do you think the USG bid process unfairly excluded a US plane by specifying a NDI/“Production-Ready” plane for a contract that was not an “emergency”?

    • Ed wrote:

      I was in the hospital in the summer of 1973 having been medically evacuated from Nam Phong Thailand known as “The Rose Garden” as an F-4 pilot with VMFA-232 “Red Devils.” When the final mission was flown on August 15, 1973, the US ran out of time and the Killing Fields followed–

      In December 2003 I traveled through out Iraq to investigate the conventional contraband weapons smuggled into Iraq under the Oil for Food Program. I returned to OSD and worked with FBI to try and bring the criminals involved to justice—So just like the end of the Vietnam War I am very sensitive as recent events are unfolding in Iraq that perhaps we could have done more to leave behind a stable country-

      Ultimately my observations above are left for historians.

      BUT now in my professional judgement because of HBC the US just lost a year in building the Afghan Army AF with a LAS aircraft. US and NATO allies are at war and when combat is raging and troopers and fellow Marines are dying —every day lost in bringing resources to the fight is a true emergency.

      The HBC “fake it till you make it” time delay means that all troops and innocent civilians have been put in more danger-or why even bother with a LAS program. This issue is also personal because my daughter’s husband, my grandson’s father will leave on Jan 6 under mobilization orders for a year to serve in Afghanistan with an MP unit.

      In the building of an indigenous combat capability of effective airpower for the nation of Afghanstain, leaving behind a combat Air Force they will own–HBC squandered the most precious American resource —TIME. Hawker Beechcrat actions are unconscionable and unforgivable.

      Editor Sldforum

  4. SpudmanWP wrote:

    Last, but not least (not likely):
    1. Since there is a clear “emergency” need in Iraq/Afganistan for COIN/CAS, why not do a sole-source for the Super Tucano to go directly to the field (not USAF asset) and then have a proper (eg not an NDI) dev & contract that would not exclude US planes for the long-term USAF contract?

    2. Why create the firestorm by excluding the AT-6 early instead of just announcing the Super Tucano as the winner?

    • Ed wrote:

      Excellent set of questions –First a very important point—The complete history tells the reader of the fact that the SuperTucano could have been in combat in Afghanistan two years ago in a classified project called “Imminent Fury.”

      Bill Gertz the one of the best reporters in America covering National Security reported the actions of Kansas Pols to successfully kill any early introduction of the SupreTucano into Combat in Afghanistan.

      IMMINENT FURY NEEDED

      Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, recently sent an urgent request to the Pentagon’s Joint Staff to speed up deployment of four new light attack aircraft needed by special operations commandos for airstrikes against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. The request was stalled after Congress blocked funds for the classified project, code-named Imminent Fury.“

      An August 2009 Centcom [request for forces] for four aircraft in support of SOF forces conducting operations against al Qaeda and Taliban senior leadership in Afghanistan was not fulfilled and remains open,” Gen. McChrystal stated in a May 20 memorandum to Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

      The turboprop aircraft are built on the Brazilian Embraer EMB-314 Super Tucano airframe and will be fitted with 250-pound laser-guided bombs and other weapons. They also will carry high-tech intelligence and surveillance gear.

      Gen. McChrystal said the planes “will fill this capability gap by leveraging uniquely qualified and experienced aircrew with increased agility of a survivable light attack aircraft integrated with sensors and weapons systems necessary to conduct critical find, fix and finish operations against [al Qaeda] and Taliban networks.”

      The planes also will support the “critical need” for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance in support of surging ground forces in Afghanistan, the four-star general said.
      “The immediate deployment of the Imminent Fury team into Afghanistan will validate the concept while simultaneously providing a rapid means to help meet urgent theater demands,” Gen. McChrystal said.

      According to defense officials, a request to reprogram $44 million in Navy funds to lease four Super Tucanos was made to Congress and turned down in April for reasons that remain unclear.
      Suspicion is focused on pork-barrel politics. Specifically, the military was told there was no requirement for the aircraft or that the requirement was not clear, claims that would appear to be contradicted by Gen. McChrystal’s letter.

      Sen. Sam Brownback, a Kansas Republican who sits on the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee, is said to be behind the holdup. According to the defense officials, Mr. Brownback is delaying the funds so that a Kansas-manufactured competitor aircraft, the Hawker Beechcraft AT-6B, which has not been certified for military use, can be further developed and ultimately compete with the Super Tucano.

      Spokesmen for Mr. Brownback did not return telephone calls or e-mails seeking comment.
      Mr. Brownback and Rep. Todd Tiahrt, also a Kansas Republican, wrote to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates in November to voice their objections to a Pentagon plan to buy 100 Super Tucanos. They stated that the buy would upset an Air Force review of light attack aircraft. They also stated that a “substantial investment” was made already in the AT-6B.

      One Imminent Fury aircraft was already combat-certified in U.S. tests, and similar aircraft are already in use by South American militaries, including in Colombia, where it was proved successful in nighttime bombing raids against communist FARC narco-rebels.

      Senior defense officials, including Mr. Gates, are supporting Gen. McChrystal’s request, and the Joint Staff is said to be considering how to get the planes to Afghanistan, either by persuading Congress to relent on the $44 million reprogramming or by making a second funding request.

      The airplanes are low-cost weapons that mesh closely with the counterinsurgency strategy advocated by U.S. Central Command chief Gen. David H. Petraeus, who has argued that one way insurgents try to wear down their enemy is by exhausting resources. Imminent Fury aircraft cost hundreds of dollars per flight hour to operate, compared with costs of $10,000 to $12,000 per flight hour for the current close air-support jets.

      http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2010/jun/9/inside-the-ring-143559492/?page=all

      On your second point the key is the AF had to, by the FAR requirements, put complete integerity and trust into managing the the LAS solicitation. All competing aircraft had to be assumed to have been submitted in accordance with meeting the stated requirements.

      When HBC cheated-either by fraud or bad business judgement and entered a bid using a non-production ready, developmental prototype it would cause a delay until that lack of suitability of the AT-6 in meeting the requirements were adjudicated. That process took due dilligance and time. This is why the GAO finding is so strong.

      If the only aircraft submitted in the competition had been the SuperTucano then the process could have moved at sole-source light speed because there is no doubt that the SuperT has been combat proven as the number one LAS COIN aircraft in the world.

      HBC is at fault for this entire firestorm, which on a personal note I think was their strategy all along, because in retrospect it is now apparent it was their only strategy-delay the SuperTucano, and try and “fake it till you make it” with the AT-6 and send out a series of amazing press statements to try and fuel political action inspite of the merits of the case.

      This is a case study of the AF integrity sadly being “gamed in public”, because the AF Acquisition team could not fight back during the process. It is aparent now to all readers that HBC was and is still trying to spin away the fact that they improperly submitted a non-qualified aircraft into competition.

      Editor Sldforum.com

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