SuperTucano Vs AT-6: The “Smoking Hole”

“While we pursue perfection, we sometimes fall short, and when we do we will take corrective action,” said Air Force Secretary Michael Donley, in a statement Tuesday (Feb 28, 2012).

The USAF just withdrew their selection of the SuperTucano for the Afghan Army Air Force LAS. Numerous worldwide news stories are reporting this action.

The Air Force plans to set aside a disputed $354 million contract for a light air support plane and initiate an investigation into the award. A senior USAF acquisition official, who is reportedly leaving soon in any case, did not like the documentation for the award.  We also have learned from news stories that he commander of the Air Force Material Command has initiated an investigation into the matter.

However, there is a lot more to this story starting with the announcement process. It was not in prepared testimony by Secretary Donley but rather stated by him in introductory remarks at a Capital Hill Hearing. Within minutes a blast e-mail went out to Congress announcing the AF re-do decision.

Compounding the AF actions is the brutal fact that at the height of American troops being savagely murdered in Afghanistan it appears there was no coordination with the client, the Afghan President and his Minister of Defense.

Did our Ambassador, or for that matter anyone at State know beforehand? Heck of a way to fight and win a war.

All those pleased with the decision are announcing their support because it means jobs for Kansas. But wait one minute—what about troops in combat and the fact the SuperTucano, is a far superior combat proven LAS aircraft could have already been flying combat missions years ago, I guess the Marine saying still applies: “The Marines are at war America is at the Mall.”

How about the foreign policy implications the U.S. Sierra Nevada Corporation and Brazil –I guess an honorable team just fell for the great line from Animal House —“You F*** Up-you trusted us.”

With an $ 8-9 Billion Brazil possible downselect of the F/A-18 in play I can not think of a bigger insult to a company Enbraer that builds a great product.  The USAF just a few weeks ago stood tall in protecting their honor and integrity-and their judgement was confirmed by GAO. A few weeks ago the USAF issued a then definitive white paper on the LAS competition:

LAS procurement conducted in accordance with all applicable laws and regulations

  • The USAF engaged in discussions with all offerors from 8 Apr 11 until 23 Sep 11 to ensure we had a clear understanding of their proposals, and all offerors had a clear understanding of the USAF’s requirements
  • Offerors whose proposals did not meet the LAS requirements were provided ENs outlining proposal deficiencies and weaknesses
  • The ENs contain proprietary information and can only be released by the offeror
  • HBDC was removed from the competitive range on 1 Nov 2011
  • HBDC protested its exclusion from the competitive range with the Government Accountability Office (GAO case number B-406170) on 21 Nov 11

Perhaps Mr. Van Buren, the Senior USAF Acquisition official, concerned with improved documentation didn’t have a chance to read the USAF paper sent to Congress.  And perhaps he missed the GAO action. GAO dismissed HBDC’s protest on 22 Dec 11.

The real world practical result of this process is more important than deployed capabilities is that the Obama Administration will more than likely accelerate an Afghan exit strategy.

If so, there will sadly be no aircraft for Afghanistan.

The USAF is taking great pains to remind everyone that the case is still in litigation-but now will that case continue is another question-perhaps the discovery process putting reputations at risk?

The USAF said there would be an accelerated investigation and maybe they will get the investigation correct now for some extremely important questions one might pose and which the USAF needs to answer.

Was it management incompetence or something more serious when HBC submitted the AT-6 into a non-developmental, production ready, and no USG funds to be expended LAS source selection?

A fly-off that was not a fly-off. Why was the “fly-off” allowed between a full up combat aircraft and one the AT-6 which STILL is in development and not certified for weapons release?

Were any USG funds for test ranges and pilots to try and certify the AT-6 for weapons release expended during the source selection?

Is it a case of criminal leaks and/or successful corporate  “economic espionage” that allowed Chairman Bill Boisture to speak with authority on knowing the offer price per aircraft of the SuperTucano?

Question number 4 is central. If HBC knows the offered cost per aircraft of the SuperT, not the allocated total dollar amount which covers support etc., then SNC and Embraer do not have a chance of success in a re-compete.

Knowledge of that specific number is worth a potential billion dollars.

Why is there absolutely no sense of urgency on the part of the USAF to get core capabilities for the Afghan military in place as we transition our forces in Afghanistan?

 

USAF Background Paper on Light Air Support (LAS) Contract

The USAF is circulating a paper on the Hill that clearly lays out for our readers, their judgement on the state of play of getting the planes to the troops.

BULLET BACKGROUND PAPER ON
LIGHT AIR SUPPORT (LAS)

This paper provides information on the LAS acquisition. Due to the ongoing litigation brought by Hawker Beechcraft Defense Corporation (HBDC), the United States Air Force (USAF) cannot release information regarding the LAS competition.

HBDC has extensive and detailed information regarding the USAF’s evaluation of their proposal that is contained in the issued evaluation notices (ENs). HBDC may, at their discretion, provide this information.

DISCUSSION

The LAS acquisition fulfills the CENTCOM requirement to establish an indigenous Afghan advanced training and combat flying capability by procuring twenty (20) non-developmental item (NDI) LAS aircraft, three (3) ground training devices, and three (3) years of interim contractor support (ICS)

  • Funded with U.S. Afghanistan Security Forces Fund (ASFF) and managed through the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) process
  • Acquisition strategy used an Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (ID/IQ) contract vehicle to maximize synergy with potential customer requirements
  • LAS procurement conducted in accordance with all applicable laws and regulations

The USAF engaged in discussions with all offerors from 8 Apr 11 until 23 Sep 11 to ensure we had a clear understanding of their proposals, and all offerors had a clear understanding of the USAF’s requirements.

  • Offerors whose proposals did not meet the LAS requirements were provided ENs outlining proposal deficiencies and weaknesses
  • The ENs contain proprietary information and can only be released by the offeros
  • HBDC was removed from the competitive range on 1 Nov 2011
  • HBDC protested its exclusion from the competitive range with the Government Accountability Office (GAO case number B-406170) on 21 Nov 11
  • GAO dismissed HBDC’s  protest on 22 Dec 11.

On 22 December 2011 Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) was awarded firm-fixed price contract FA8637-12-D-6001 for $355,126,541 that includes:

  • 20 LAS Aircraft
  • 1 Lot OCONUS Interim Contractor Support Long Lead
  • 1 Lot OCONUS Interim Contractor Support Base Activation
  • 6 Mission Planning Stations
— 6 Mission Debrief Systems
— 1 Computer Based Trainer Ground Training Device
— 1 Flight Training Device Ground Training Device
  • 1 Lot LAS Flight Certification to USAF Military Type Certification Standards

LAS event timeline (items in italics are future events or events that have not occurred):

  • 29 Oct 10: Request for Proposals (RFP) released
  • 28  Dec  10:    Vendors’  proposals  received
  • 28 Jan 11: LAS System Demonstration completed
  • 22 Apr 11: DoD provided defense committees ASFF Financial and  Activity Plan for executing FY11 funds
  • 1 Nov 11: HBDC eliminated from competitive range
  • 21 Nov 11: HBDC protested its exclusion from the competitive range to the Government Accountability Office (GAO)
  • 22 Dec 11: GAO dismissed HBDC protest as untimely
  • 22 Dec 11: Contract awarded to SNC
  • 27 Dec 11: HBDC filed suit against the USAF in U.S. Court of Federal Claims, seeking legal review of its elimination from the competition
  • 4 Jan 12: In light of the pending legal review, the USAF issued a stop work order for the LAS contract that was awarded to SNC

The USAF is confident in the merits of the contract award decision and anticipates the litigation will be quickly resolved

  • 6 Mar 12: All motions due to U.S. Court of Federal Claim
  • Apr 2013: LAS deliveries to Afghanistan begin (delays expected due to current litigations)

SUMMARY

The USAF is confident about its contract award decision. The source selection process was deliberative, did not favor one offeror over another and followed strict statutory/administrative guidelines. Our goal remains to provide the Afghanistan government with an indigenous advanced  training  and  combat  capable  aircraft  to  facilitate  Afghanistan’s  internal  security   capability.

 

 

 

The Latest on AT-6 Vs Super Tucano: Time to Bow Out

A losing team continues to present losing arguments on so many different levels. As readers know, this Forum has been following the USAF LAS selection process very closely.  We take it very seriously because of the need to get the LAS aircraft into theater to aid our forces in responsible withdrawal.

The bottom line to date is that HBC seemingly with full knowledge of what they were doing, submitted a non-production ready, developmental aircraft that continued to expend government testing funds during the selection process. The terms of the LAS solicitation precluded all that from day one.

In spite of playing the game in a way which seems deliberately ignoring the RFP terms, they keep on coming.  They are now attempting to try the case in the court of public opinion in a very ugly way. To be fair and balanced, the uncontested facts are the Super Tucano  has without a doubt been validated by the market place, there are over 150 world wide many in combat, and  the USAF selection has been validated  by GAO. It has been established that the Super Tucano is the combat ready aircraft.

Anything else presented by HBC to quote the Bloody Red Baron is “rubbish.”

Now Second Line of Defense Forum has acquired a letter that is signed by HBC Chairman Bill Boisture trying to make a very public case about their situation. This letter has been widely circulate by Boisture.

In the interest of fairness Chairman Boisture’s letter can be found at the end of this article.

The reason for giving Chairman Boisture publicity is very simple: he seems to implicate himself in his own words with violating the integrity of the Source Selection process. Additionally, the points he makes are a further validation of the judgment and integrity of the US Air Force and GAO in determining that the AT-6 was an unqualified risk that they wisely chose not to select.

That proof of that point is simple: Does Chairman Boisture not think the AF and GAO know all the issues he is trying to make in his letter?  Yet they still determined that the AT-6 was not qualified.  He can’t possibly be insulting the intelligence of his customer and Congress any further but apparently that is what he is doing.

There are two evident problems with his letter and HBC’s Brazil bashing

The first is legal. Boister has written a self-incriminating  line that now must be investigated by AF OSI, DOD IG or FBI. He states clearly that  “The 314 costs over 25% more, and it does less in the mission environment than the U.S.-made Beechcraft AT-6.”

How does he know?

Either he is making up the 25%,, or someone has  committed a felony. The pricing of competitors in any source selection but especially for a potential Billion Dollar acquisition is one of the most sacred and protected facts.

Yet he asserts that the costs as of the 314 as being over 25% more. Again either you are making it up, or you have access to source selection data?

Taxpayers and businesses throughout the world must know that we play fair and by the rules. Consequently, the Chairman of a efense firm has called into question that this may not be the case. His statement should be immediately investigated to protect the integrity of the process.

Additionally, actions and words have consequences. This very public fight has the possibility of causing significant damage to US-Brazil relations and that would be most unfortunate.

Boeing is trying to win a multi-billion dollar contract to provide F/A-18s to Brazil. Amazingly, though they hired former Congressman Tiahrt who has recently been on national TV trying to torpedo any Super Tucano sales to America which is certainly an intriguing business model to support your global sales and interests.

But wait it gets better. HBC is owned by Onex, an Canadian private equity firm, and Goldman Sachs.  Investment Bankers traditionally have high SAT scores and go to the best schools. So they must know that Brazil just passed UK as the sixth largest economy in the world. Yet they allow a company they own to trash Brazil, in a vile and ugly manner.

At this moment it maybe fair to say there may be fast approaching a tipping point that cutting off access to Brazilian markets and products for Goldman and Onex Investment Banking deals can not be ruled out.

To quote Forrest Gump in Portuguese –Estúpido é como estúpido faz (stupid is as stupid does).

Maybe they will pull the lawsuit and let America get on with wining the war in Afghanistan. My daughter’s husband and father of my grandson has just been mobilized with the DC guard and is proceeding into combat as I type this article. I wish he already had a SuperT schwaking bad guys right now. It may be a game to some, but to me it is about supporting the American warfighter and his allies now.

“I am writing you to ask for your help.

The U.S. Air Force has made a fundamentally FLAWED DECISION to award the Light Air Support (LAS) contract to the Brazilian-made Embraer EMB 314 Super Tucano. The 314 costs over 25% more, and it does less in the mission environment than the U.S.-made Beechcraft AT-6.

This is a billion dollar contract award starting with 20 aircraft, but giving the USAF authority to buy up to roughly 60 aircraft. The LAS contract is meant to support our nation’s Building Partner Capacity policy, which provides friendly nations the capability to defend themselves as our forces withdraw and to equip their own forces instead of deploying ours. The pilots in these friendly nations have trained in our country in the Beechcraft T-6 Texan II trainer operated by the USAF and U.S. Navy. The T-6 has been in service since 1999 with dependable, safe performance.

The U.S. Air Force has evaluated the Super Tucano before!! In the 1996 competition for the Joint Primary Aircraft Trainer (JPATS) Program, the USAF REJECTED the EMB 312 ON THE BASIS OF POOR AIRCRAFT HANDLING QUALITIES and decided to acquire the T-6 Texan II. In the current LAS acquisition process there was NO hands-on evaluation of the competitive aircraft. Had there been, the poor handling qualities of the Brazilian-made aircraft would have, once again, been readily apparent.

The U.S. Air Force IGNORED very significant factors while making the LAS contract decision:

1. The AT-6 predecessor, the T-6, is used to train every DOD fixed-wing pilot. Any Allied pilot training done in the U.S. is done in the T-6. THE AIRPLANE IS PROVEN IN OVER 1.8 MILLION FLYING HOURS OF RELIABLE SERVICE.

2. The AT-6 employs a mission system from the A10C Thunderbolt II aircraft that has been proven in every desert combat campaign, it employs the sensor system from the MC12W Liberty aircraft currently deployed in Afghanistan, and it has proven capability to accurately deliver a wide range of current U.S. and NATO precision and unguided munitions in Congressionally sponsored, Air National Guard funded tactical demonstrations. The U.S. TAXPAYERS HAVE ALREADY PAID ONCE for the development of all of these capabilities and they are integrated in the AT-6. WHY PAY A SECOND TIME FOR A MORE EXPENSIVE ALTERNATIVE?

3. The logistic support system for the AT-6 airframe and mission systems is in place and paid for today. Maintainer training, pilot training, technical manuals, parts stocks are all part of the U.S. DOD capability today! WHY TAKE THE RISK OF INTRODUCING ANOTHER AIRCRAFT (with no established U.S. support capability) AT A HIGHER COST WITH LESS COMBAT CAPABILITY?

4. THE USAF DECISION PROCESS DID NOT INCLUDE A HANDS-ON EVALUATION OF THE EMB314 FLIGHT HANDLING CHARACTERISTICS. This is important because in a previous competition in 1996, the POOR (UNSAFE) HANDLING QUALITIES of the EMB312 as evaluated by the USAF was a major factor in the decision to buy the T-6.

This is a difficult time in our country. Our economy is slowed and high quality manufacturing jobs are on the wane. Just last week, the President called on industry leaders to help rebuild the U.S. job base and in-source jobs back to America. The U.S. Air Force decision for the EMB 314 will result in the LOSS OF 1,400 U.S. JOBS. For Hawker Beechcraft in Wichita, 500 of those are engineering jobs and 300 are highly skilled aircraft manufacturing jobs. The tradeoff is 50 jobs in Florida to facilitate “U.S. delivery” of an aircraft manufactured by Brazilian labor and flown to the U.S.

It is fair to tell you that Embraer has a U.S. partner, Sierra Nevada Corporation, based in Nevada with the Congressional support that brings. This relationship allowed the bid to be entered as a U.S. company. If the parallels between the Boeing and Airbus competition on the U.S. Air Force tanker contractor are striking, they should be.

We have filed suit against the U.S. Government in the Federal Claims Court, and the judge has agreed to hear the case on its merits. In the face of this review, the U.S. Air Force has issued a stop work order on the LAS contract. That would seem to indicate the error of this decision might now be recognized, but we are not relying on this process.

If the U.S. Air Force decision to award this contract to a foreign aircraft does not make sense to you, I am writing you to ask for your help. It is very easy. Go to our website (We draw the line on any more free publicity-ed) and use the already prepared letters to let our leaders know what you want done. The site also supports writing your own letter if time and interest permits. LOOK OVER THE ENCLOSED MATERIALS AND SEE IF THIS U.S. AIR FORCE DECISION MAKES SENSE TO YOU AS A U.S. TAXPAYER. I guarantee it will not. If you agree, please pass this letter and the attachment on to your friends.

On behalf of our 6,000 people, I want to thank you for taking the time to get this decision objectively reviewed by our nation’s decision makers.

Sincerely,

Bill Boisture
Chairman “

 

 

Last Man Standing

Note from the Editor

Aerospace Daily has just reported breaking news that the GAO dismissed a bid protest by Hawker Beechcraft on their submission of the AT-6 for the light air support aircraft program–known as the LAS acquisition.  This GAO finding  is a  tribute to the USAF LAS Acquisition Team —a Navy term “Bravo Zulu” to the Air Force  for “Job well done” is called for.

http://media.defenseindustrydaily.com/images/AIR_EMB-314_Super_Tucano_Dominican_Republic_lg.jpg

After the Tanker debacle  and the Administration’s misguided political fight over the F-22, which was a significantly bad political decision against the USAF,  it is good to see an Acquisition process left alone politically and allowed to make decisions on the merits. The LAS acquisition process will be a case study in integrity at work, AND also enough of ugly and ignorant Brazil bashing especially since the F/A-18 is currently a very worthy aircraft  in consideration for the Brazilian AF.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all our readers.

For the GAO decision go here

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

Excerpts from Aerospace Daily Dec 26th, 2011

The GAO ruling also provides insight into the Air Force’s decision-making over the light air support (LAS) competition to provide 20 light-attack/advanced-trainer aircraft to the Afghan air force — namely, that the service found the company’s AT-6 proposal insufficient.

According to the ruling, the Air Force concluded that Hawker had not adequately corrected deficiencies in its proposal and that “multiple deficiencies and significant weaknesses found in [Hawker’s] proposal make it technically unacceptable and results in unacceptable mission capability risk…..”

The Air Force decision appeared to leave Embraer’s Super Tucano as the only offering for the contract…. Even though other companies showed interest in the light-attack requirement when it first emerged, only the AT-6 and Super Tucano were evaluated by the Air Force in a flyoff conducted in January as part of the LAS competition.

 

 

 

 

The AT-6 VS Super Tucano: Round 3

I was told that Dr Loren Thompson had given a quotation to Daniel McCoy a reporter for the Wichita Business Journal, which is a publication that has been providing more in-depth and detailed coverage of the USAF source selection process between the HawkerBeech AT-6 and the  Super Tucano than many other publications.

The Wichita Business Journal headline says it all. Either Hawker Beech is ignorant of the FAR process or trying to bully the integrity of the US Air Force source selection process in print.

“Hawker Beechcraft left to wonder following Air Force exclusion”

“Dumfounded” —-and caught off guard—Dr Loren Thompson is quoted-

“He (Dr. Thompson) says the AT-6 — a armed version of the company’s T-6A trainer — met the Air Force’s requirements. The RFP stated only that no developmental funding would be provided, he says, not that the company couldn’t spend its own money.

Up until last week, he says, he thought the AT-6 would beat out its competitor for the LAS contract, Embraer’s Super Tacano.

He says it’s unusual for a company not to get a reason for being excluded from bidding.

“I’m totally dumbfounded,” Thompson says. “At the very least, the government should have provided a reason.”

Perhaps some facts will clarify the process and help Dr. Thompson and other individuals who are following this process understand but remember as stated in my recent article.

“.. to be fair, the reason why is still not known,”  http://www.sldinfo.com/the-usaf-takes-a-decision-2/ this is still true.

But some facts should be known for all readers interested in the competition. Again using Occam’s Razor principle as stated in my first article on the USAF announcement:

To clarify using Occam’s Razor that the simplest explanation may be the best before an orchestrated campaign to attack the integrity, professionalism, judgment and rational for a very wise USAF decision a simple point can be made. The opening principle of the request for entry into the selection process has the below first sentence in the RFP and everything that occurred may have followed:

“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

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

Additional research will show why the Government does not have to provide a reason.

Reporters and analysts should look to the regulations to understand the USAF is protecting the integrity of process-again the reason “why” is still unknown but a very strong sentence that could explain the USAF position is in the FAR.

The Federal Acquisition Regulation  known as “The FAR” “is the primary regulation for use by all Federal Executive agencies in their acquisition of supplies and services with appropriated funds.”

https://www.acquisition.gov/far/current/pdf/FAR.pdf

Subpart 33.1—Protests

Protests before award.

(1) When the agency has received notice from the GAO of a protest filed directly with the GAO, a contract may not be awarded unless authorized, in accordance with agency procedures, by the head of the contracting activity, on a nondelegable basis, upon a written finding that—

(i) Urgent and compelling circumstances which significantly affect the interest of the United States will not permit awaiting the decision of the GAO; and

(ii) Award is likely to occur within 30 days of the written finding.

Lt. Col. Keith Colmer, a test pilot with the Air National Guard, Air Force Reserve Command Test Center in Tucson, Ariz., successfully releases a 500-pound GBU-12 laser-guided weapon from an AT-6C experimental light attack aircraft Sept. 28. (U.S. Air Force photo/James Haseltine)

Additionally, the point asserted by Dr. Thompson about the AT-6 meeting the requirements does not on the face of it square with the first sentence in the requirements quoted above-the At-6 is still in development, at least according to Aviation Week and Space Technology.

Even more his quote about only $100 mil HBC funds being used also seems not to square with what the 162nd Fighter Wing reported.

One look at a recent PAO release (September 29, 2011) by the 162nd Fighter Wing tells the informed reader and reporter facts that contradict both his statements about money and development-the AT-6 is in development and USG funds are being expended.

9/29/2011 – TUCSON, Ariz. – It’s light, lean, cost effective – and now lethal. The AT-6C light attack aircraft in testing here successfully employed precision-guided munitions for the first time Sept. 28.

In three test flights over Southern Arizona’s Barry M. Goldwater Range the experimental airplane dropped three GBU-12s – 500-pound laser-guided bombs – and each hit its intended target.

A team of test pilots and engineers converged on the Air National Guard, Air Force Reserve Command Test Center (AATC) based at Tucson International Airport to put the propeller-driven airplane through two weeks of air-to-ground and air-to-air weapons testing.

“We’re very happy. This is a culmination of a year and half of test effort for us,” said Lt. Col. Keith Colmer, developmental test pilot and director of engineering for AATC. “This was the first time that we brought light attack into the modern generation of weapons.”

http://www.162fw.ang.af.mil/news/story_print.asp?id=123273986

The USAF deserves the curtsey of facts being presented not assertions stated as facts either by individuals or HBC and then informed readers can follow this extremely interesting source selection process.

 

 

End-Game for USAF Competition?

11/20/2011 The headline in the Wichita Eagle says it all—“Hawker Beechcraft loses out on big Air Force contract”

Reporter  Dan Voorhis writing for The Wichita Eagle, (November 18 2011) points out that;

“Hawker Beechcraft Corp. says the Air Force has informed the company that it lost out on a military contract worth nearly $1billion.

“The company had hoped to win the Light Air Support contract with its AT-6, an armed version of its T-6 trainer. But on Friday, the company said it received a letter from the Air Force saying the AT-6 had been excluded from the competition. The company wants an explanation.”

http://www.kansas.com/2011/11/18/2108059/hawker-beechcraft-said-air-force.html

To clarify using Occam’s Razor that the simplest explanation may be the best before an orchestrated campaign to attack the integrity, professionalism, judgment and rational for a very wise USAF decision a simple point can be made. The opening principle of the request for entry into the selection process has the below first sentence in the RFP and everything that occurred may have followed:

“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.

“We have been notified by the United States Air Force in a letter that the Beechcraft AT-6 has been excluded from the Light Air Support competition. The letter provides no basis for the exclusion. We are both confounded and troubled by this decision, as we have been working closely with the Air Force for two years and, with our partners, have invested more than $100 million preparing to meet the Air Force’s specific requirements. Additionally, the AT-6 has been evaluated and proven capable through a multi-year, Congressionally-funded demonstration program led by the Air National Guard.  We have followed the Air Force’s guidance closely and, based on what we have seen, we continue to believe that we submitted the most capable, affordable and sustainable light attack aircraft as measured against the Air Force’s Request for Proposal. We have requested a debriefing from the Air Force and will be exploring all potential options in the coming days.”

By their own words “We have followed the Air Force’s guidance closely….” HBC admits that they are to be measured by the terms of the RFP— see the initial RFP opening requirement stated above-they were not ready to compete and the AF called them on that fundamental point as the public evidence evolved to make that very clear.

Additionally, in making their defense and initiating a demand for an explanation they publicly state that they have spent $100 Mil in their continuing and ongoing effort to develop the AT-6 to compete in a non-developmental contest!—Priceless.  Physician heal thyself!

In a request to Embraer on how much they invested in preparing the Super Tucano for the flight testing part of the competition it was their estimate that it was under $50,000 to fly the aircraft to the test site, fly the test missions and then return to Brazil.  Since RFP paper work is constant among competitors the accurate ratio of $100 Million to $50,000 says it all. Additionally, the $100 mil was US taxpayer dollars, and the $50,000 was at the Super Tucano’s teams risk funding.

The AF evaluation team proves that “The Right Stuff” can be shown in all dimensions of creating a modern airpower combat team. From an office at Wright-Pat to eventually the combat skies over  Afghanistan our war effort to help the that country and quickly leave just took a turn for the good.

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Historic PR “fumble” in the Super Tucano Vs AT-6 Public Fight

Currently the U.S. Air Force is engaged in a source selection process to pick a Light Attack Support Aircraft (LAS) for the emerging Afghan National Army Air Corps.

The Super Tucano is the only platform with proven combat success in fighting against both the communist FARC guerillas in Colombia and drug kingpins operating across borders in South America. (SLD Forum: “All Else is Rubbish”).

The AT-6, the other LAS in consideration, is not yet even certified for ordnance release.

So what exactly has been the PR strategy for the AT-6?

An opening salvo was fired by Mr. Richard Michalski, general vice president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM&AW) and was posted in The Hill Congressional Blog. For some reason he focused on both a buy America argument while also attacking Embraer Air for not being cognizant of the ejection seat ergonomics for female fighter pilots. For a country with a female President this was truly strange.

The echo chamber supporting him in the comment section made two astonishing statements:

First was an attack on the Second Line of Defense article in which I had placed a picture of a Super Tucano female pilot in the Brazil AF (EMB314: Which Gender Issue?).

The second point made in support of Mr. Michalski essentially captures the overall line of support currently in play that argues it is good for the American worker to select the American AT-6 over the Super Tucano.

Soon there appeared other articles in print stressing the need to protect the American worker and adding an additional point about the supply chain strength of building the AT-6 in America

(See for example AT-6 Meets The Need For An Affordable Light Attack Aircraft)

“A final and not unimportant point is that unlike some of the other contenders for the LAAR role, the Hawker Beechcraft AT-6 would be developed, produced and assembled in the United States. The entire supply chain would be secure, safe and American. The AT-6 is a low-risk, low-cost solution that avoids the political, logistical and operational challenges that would inevitably arise if a foreign-built aircraft were selected as the LAAR.”

Or see Pentagon’s Light Attack Plane Competition Has Large Implications).

“There are only two credible contenders for the contract: an American plane made by Hawker Beechcraft designated the AT-6, and a Brazilian plane made by Embraer designated the EMB-314. They’re both propeller driven, multi-mission aircraft, and their price-tags are similar. But because the Beechcraft offering would be developed and assembled in America, it would generate over 1,000 jobs here. The Brazilian plane would be developed elsewhere, and final assembly in the U.S. would probably generate less than a hundred jobs.”

Concurrently, along with buy-America and supply chain arguments in play the next PR strategy was to stress the advanced systems on the AT-6. In a front page Aviation Week story a HBC pilot let the reader believe that  the lone (1600shp) AT-6 in existence wakes up every morning and thinks it is an A-10

AT-6 Seen As Versatile Combat Aircraft By David Fulghum  (Av Week) May 18 2011:

“Now, as the AT-6B/C, it is promising to become an inexpensive path to network-centric operations, precision strike and advanced surveillance for other air forces.

Nor is there a foreseeable end to the development potential envisioned for the two-seater. It offers 1,600 shp, 5-6-hr. endurance and an A-10C cockpit—a combination that’s being created by the team of Hawker Beechcraft and Lockheed Martin.

As for what a light attack platform should be, the debate is over, declares Daniel Hinson, AT-6 demonstration and test manager and chief test pilot. The answer, he contends, is an affordable manned platform that is toughened to the demands of pilot training and that lends itself to integrating niche features that include precision weapons as well as advanced intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities.”

Unfortunately, for the advanced “tron” argument the AT-6 has bumped into some unforgiving laws of aerodynamics that were recently pointed to the very knowledgeable and prestigious Association of Old Crows.

The Association of Old Crows (AOC) sponsored a symposium in Arlington in May 2011 on the AT-6, and the laws of physics were made in a very direct way:

  • No RWR (Radar Warning Receiver) installed.
  • Significant weight and balance (CG) and overall weight challenges associated with MWS (Missile warning System) installation
  • Aircraft is tail heavy; ballast had to be installed forward to re-align CG
  • Ballast detracts from overall aircraft payload

To summarize on the demonstrated Combat capability of both aircraft:

  • The Super Tucano is a proven combat aircraft that is currently killing Communists and drug kingpins; and
  • The AT-6 is not yet certified to drop ordnance and pays a price in support in just trying to defend itself in a limited threat environment.

As much as I enjoyed the open and fair debate on capabilities, the AT-6 supporters were just handed a huge OOPSIE by HBC management and their investment banker owners (49% US, 49% Canada, 2% corporate officers)

Goldmanʼs Hawker Beechcraft Pursues Talks on Chinese Jet Venture

May 23, 2011, 7:52 PM EDT

By Howard Mustoe

May 24 (Bloomberg) – “Hawker Beechcraft Corp., the private- aircraft manufacturer owned by Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Onex Corp., said itʼs in

negotiations about a joint venture that could lead to the production of planes in China.

The U.S. company has been in talks since January over a deal that may ultimately see it transfer technology to win a bigger slice of sales in the fastest

growing major economy, Chief Executive Officer Bill Boisture said in an interview.

“Iʼve been there three times since the first of the year and there are serious discussions about potential joint ventures,” Boisture said. While there are “real

possibilities,” talks are at an early stage and a deal may initially focus on joint sales, followed by production of parts and then final assembly “over the next

10 years,” the executive said in London.

History of this type of activity with the Peoples Republic of China has not been kind to the American worker and our Defense Industrial Base. Joint Ventures with allies and fellow democracies have tremendous potential, but with the PRC absolutely not!

American workers are always caught in the middle between Investment Banking “deal making ” and PRC scamming and have over time learned some very hard lessons.

One egregious and famous example is the loss of an entire factory.

On August 24th 1993, Chinese Officials walked into a MacDonald-Dougless managed defense plant in Columbus Ohio. The plant had giant computer-controlled strategic machine tools. It built parts for the Minuteman missile, F-15 Fighter and C-17 airlifter. Needless to say the workers tried to block the PLA visitors with overturned tables and filing cabinets. All future PLA site surveys were scheduled for Sunday when the plant was shut down. But the deal went through and the tools were shipped to China.

Ultimately, everyone lost McD and the workers are both gone except of course the PRC who won  because the machine tools wound up in PLA military factories.

Consequently, when the PRC makes overtures for joint ventures American national security can be put at risk, industrial base jobs will be lost and dual use technology compromised.

So everyone who has made arguments in favor of the AT-6 that it is American made and has state-of-the-art “tron” technology have just had their entire argument destroyed and thrown back in their face. It is actually sad for them because they tried so hard.

This entire matter is an ugly PR fumble of the first order.

 

 

“All Else is Rubbish”

Clarifying the continuing public debate about the AT-6 versus Super Tucano selection for the Afghan AF is important for the overall success of U.S. international diplomacy in the worldwide aviation market.

There is a saying that can be recognized by all USAF, USN and USMC combat aviators that after engaging in a practice Air Combat Maneuvering (ACM) engagement — whomever ever first gets to the briefing board wins.

In other words, who ever first frames the debrief makes sure it favors the outcome desired-which is almost always “I won.” There is absolutely nothing wrong with strong, capable, well-trained fearless egos doing what ever it takes in arguing tactics and technology to enhance their knowledge to fight and win in the air.

Recognizing how important it is to not make the debriefing session spiral off track, The Navy Fighter Weapon School, “Top Gun,” created a technique called “Goods” and “Others.”  It was an approach with much merit.

Applying the same technique to the current and very public debate over the US Air Force’s selection of a Light Air Support (LAS) aircraft for the emerging Afghan National Army Air Corps might prove enlightening.  And remembering that this is a non-developmental contract competition is always useful to keep in mind.

First, asking any aviator “platform centric” arguments can get robust and emotional. So both aircraft in consideration, the AT-6 and Super Tucano have strong advocates. It is also understandable that a lot of Air Force pilots would have fond memories of their time spent learning to fly in the T-6. The AT-6 is a derivative of that basic trainer. This is just like the fond feelings a lot of Naval Aviators have for the T-34 Mentor the, Navy’s basic trainer, which was their first step in the journey to Navy Wings of Gold.

The AT-6 versus Super Tucano-“Goods” and “Others”

A huge “Good”—is that a selection for a light attack aircraft for Afghanistan is finally in works.

“Others” –Typical anonymous and staff-driven Congressional meddling in the last Congress stopped a program to introduce such an asset into Afghanistan to support our forces.

The program was called “Imminent Fury” (See on SLDInfo.com Air Power in Afghanistan : The Case For “Imminent Fury”).

“Good”-Three of the best Combat Generals in the US 21st Century Military, General’s Mattis, McCrystal and Petraeus all wanted a light attack aircraft immediately for combat.

“Others”- Kansas (where Hawker Beech builds the T-6) interests in Congress slow rolled the Request For Forces (RFF) because the AT-6 was still in development and wasn’t ready for a combat role which remains true today.

But now, first a word about combat requirements and the role of LAS is necessary.

A truly legendary fighter pilot said almost a Century ago that; “The duty of the fighter pilot is to patrol his area of the sky, and shoot down any enemy fighters in that area. All else is rubbish.”

Baron Manfred von Richthofen, 1917.   “Richtofen would not let members of his Staffel strafe troops in the trenches.”

He was right about killing any enemy threat in the air being first and foremost. The USAF along with Navy and Marine fighter pilots have always quested to establish total air dominance.

The history of American success in this effort was paid for in the fights to the death in the Pacific and Europe in WWII, to MIG-Alley in Korea and the sky above North Vietnam. However, one fact often taken for granted from combat in Desert Storm is that in today’s fight in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya the US and its allies own the air.

Historically, Air Dominance is very fragile because in tactical aviation technology is always moving forward in an action/reaction cycle against equally reactive enemies. Currently if American political leaders retain the political will power to field the emerging “Hi-Hi” mix of fighters, the F-22 and the F-35, in sufficient numbers, America and allied nations will rule the skies for a generation. (The F-35B in the Perspective of Aviation History).

For the Red Baron, keeping his squadron focused on the air battle was important for his day. However, with Air Dominance established in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya shifting air power focus to support troops on the ground by strafing, and launching precision guided munitions to kill the enemy is also the pilots duty — and “All else is rubbish.”

Because of U.S. current ownership of the air in Afghanistan, there is a tremendous opportunity for introducing a war-tipping asset in the fight on the ground, and that is a light attack aircraft.

The Deputy US/NATO commander, whose combat assignment, was building out the surge airfield in Kandahar Afghanistan into the largest single runway operation in the world explained this important tactical opportunity. He was interviewed by Second Line of Defense Re-visiting the Concept of a Counter-Insurgency Aircraft).

Now back to the AT-6 Vs Super Tucano “Goods and Others “debate–

“Others” –The “Afghan Light-Attack Plane Competition to Culminate with Major Flyoff –Few changes in updated requirements”  (Inside the Air Force 07/30/2010)

But the reality seems to be not quite so.  There seem to be changing requirements in play. “One important change is that the “standard LAS combat mission” calls for the aircraft to strafe an enemy target with its .50-caliber machine guns while carrying two 500-pound GBU-12 bombs. In the previous requirements document, the standard mission called for releasing one of the two GBU-12s, then strafing.

The change is critical because performing a strafing mission with two large bombs – which weigh more than 1,200 pounds when guidance systems are factored in – puts a great amount of stress on a small airframe, according to defense observers. The aircraft would need adequate power to pull up while carrying the extra bomb during a strafing run.”

A portion of the test was apparently eliminated, under controlled conditions that are otherwise done on a routine basis by relatively less-experienced Colombian Air Force aircrews in combat against FARC.

An apparent attempt as well to minimize the need for strafing was made in the test process as well. The Super T has an internal gun and test fights of the AT-6 with an external gun pod were reported as being “bumpy”—the “pray and spray” tactic.

To summarize the good and others on the “Attack” capability in the LAS competition – The “good” is the Super Tucano is a proven combat aircraft the “others” is that AT-6 is not. Altering the Course of a War With LAA

Now on to the “S” for “Support” in LAS.

“Good” Supporters of the AT-6 have been emphasizing the “S” for support in talking about all aspects of the AT-6 future combat surveillance and electronic networking capability. It is obvious yet again an attempt is being made to try to shift the debate since as is pointed out there is no operational “A” for Attack in the AT-6.  So as the saying goes they are making lemonade.

But there still exists a HUGE “Others.”

Unfortunately, for the AT-6, the aircraft has bumped into some laws of aerodynamics that were recently pointed out by the very knowledgeable and prestigious Association of Old Crows.

The Association of Old Crows (AOC) sponsored a symposium in Arlington in May 2011 on the AT-6. And they were very direct:

  • No RWR (Radar Warning Receiver) installed.
  • Significant weight and balance (CG) and overall weight challenges associated with MWS (Missile warning System) installation
  • Aircraft is tail heavy; ballast had to be installed forward to re-align CG
  • Ballast detracts from overall aircraft payload

To summarize:

  • The Super Tucano is a proven combat aircraft that is currently killing Communists and drug baron; and
  • The AT-6 is not yet certified to drop ordnance and pays a price in support in just trying to defend itself in a limited threat environment.