WASHINGTON May 4 The U.S. Air Force on Friday
released final, revamped rules for a new competition to supply
20 light attack planes to Afghanistan, after it abruptly
cancelled its previous contract with Sierra Nevada Corp and
The Air Force posted the final amended request for proposals
on Friday evening after sending details to the two original
offerers -- Sierra Nevada and Hawker Beechcraft -- earlier.
The final rules appeared little changed from a draft that
had drawn criticism from Sierra Nevada.
"While the decision process will be event-driven, the Air
Force targets a source selection decision in early calendar year
2013," said Air Force spokeswoman Jennifer Cassidy. "This would
allow first aircraft delivery to Afghanistan in third quarter
2014," about 15 months later than initially planned.
The companies must submit their new proposals by June 4.
The Air Force decided to toss out its earlier contract with
Sierra Nevada and revise the rules for the competition after
losing bidder Hawker Beechcraft challenged the award in federal
court. The case has embarrassed U.S. military officials and
sparked questions about U.S. procurement practices in Brazil.
An internal Air Force investigation found that the $355
million contract with privately held Sierra Nevada, which was
set aside in February, had been granted without following the
proper decision-making process, Reuters reported last month. It
found no deliberate misconduct in the case.
The amended rules retain the same requirements for the
planes, but include several revisions "designed to streamline
proposal preparation and subsequent evaluation," the Air Force
Sierra Nevada filed a motion last month to challenge the Air
Force's changes, which were then still in draft form, but appear
to have been adopted largely unchanged. No comment was
immediately available from the company on Friday.
Hawker, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection
this week, said it was evaluating the revamped request for
proposals and would comment further next week.
The changes call for the companies to submit fixed-price
proposals for potential future planes beyond the 20 in the
initial order, and remove the requirement for a demonstration
flight, a sore point with Sierra Nevada and Embraer.
The rules also put off a "first article test" of the new
planes until after the award is granted and dropped a
requirement for testing of associated ground training devices.
The Air Force also said it had appointed a new, higher-level
source selection team to evaluate the companies' proposals. It
said the new team would not have access to any of the previous
materials or accounts of talks between the companies and the
The Air Force is continuing a second phase of its internal
investigation to assess whether there are systemic problems with
its acquisition system, or whether the Afghan plane competition
was an isolated case.
The U.S Air Force is handling the largely American-funded
purchase of the light attack planes, which will be supplied to
Afghanistan's fledging air force. Doubts are mounting about the
overall readiness of the Afghan military to take charge of
security in the country, which suffered heavy, coordinated
insurgent attacks on Sunday.
The case is being closely watched in Brazil, where officials
were still smarting from the cancellation of an earlier contract
with Lockheed Martin Corp for a reconnaissance plane based on
Embraer's ERJ-145 regional jet.