U.S. Air Force defends Afghan plane contract award

WASHINGTON, March 11 Mon Mar 11, 2013 10:38am EDT

WASHINGTON, March 11 (Reuters) - The U.S. Air Force on Monday defended its decision to award a $428 million contract for 20 light attack planes to privately held Sierra Nevada Corp and its Brazilian partner Embraer SA, despite a renewed protest by Beechcraft Corp.

"We are confident that this decision is well supported and that the offerors' proposals were fully and fairly evaluated consistent with the evaluation criteria in the solicitation," said spokesman Ed Gulick.

Beechcraft, formerly known as Hawker Beechcraft, on Friday said it would protest the decision, which followed a new competition launched last year. Embraer and Sierra Nevada won an initial $355 million contract in December 2011, but that deal was scrapped after a challenge from Hawker Beechcraft.

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