* U.S. Air Force vows to continue work on program
* Sierra Nevada, Embraer building 20 planes for Afghanistan
WASHINGTON, March 21 Beechcraft Corp said on
Thursday it was suing the U.S. Air Force to halt work on a
contested aircraft contract won by Brazilian planemaker Embraer
and its U.S. partner while federal auditors review
Beechcraft's protest against the contract.
The Air Force last week authorized U.S.-based Sierra Nevada
Corp and Embraer to resume work on a $428 million order for 20
light attack planes for Afghanistan, overriding a stop-work
order issued after a protest filed by Beechcraft with the
Government Accountability Office.
On Thursday, Beechcraft challenged the Air Force's decision
to allow continued work on the program by filing a lawsuit with
the U.S. Court of Federal Claims.
The Air Force said it was aware of Beechcraft's lawsuit, but
remained confident about the way the competition was handled,
and planned to continue work on the program.
"Nevada-based Sierra Nevada Corporation will continue work
on the (Light Air Support) contract pending any further
direction from the court," said spokesman Ed Gulick.
"The override to the stay of performance was issued to honor
a critical and time-sensitive U.S. commitment to provide air
support capability to the Afghanistan Air Force," he said.
Thursday's court filing by Beechcraft is the latest twist in
an ongoing battle over the Afghan plane orders - a dispute that
has drawn the ire of the Brazilian government and which could
complicate U.S. plans to withdraw from Afghanistan in 2014.
Privately-held Sierra Nevada said it and Embraer were moving
forward on the contract.
"We fully understand the urgency of this mission and intend
to provide a superior product right on schedule," Sierra Nevada
said in a statement, adding that the contract would support
1,400 jobs across the United States.
Embraer last week signed a 10-year lease on a
40,000-square-foot facility in Jacksonville, Florida, where it
plans to assemble the 20 A-29 Super Tucanos for delivery to
Sierra Nevada said the signing of the lease was "an
important step toward fulfilling the LAS contract and further
developing the U.S. aviation industrial base."
Brazilian officials expressed dismay last year when an
original December 2011 award to Sierra Nevada and Embraer was
The Air Force is racing to get new planes to Afghanistan and
train pilots to fly them as U.S. forces prepare to withdraw from
the country after over a decade of war.
Beechcraft emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last
month. The aircraft maker has called the Air Force's latest move
to continue work on the contract "misguided."