Warplanes to Tankers Delayed by Contested U.S. Contracts
June 5, 2013
The U.S. Air Force was set to deliver aircraft to the Afghan military in April. Its suppliers have just started building them.
The contract, with a maximum value of $950 million, was awarded to closely held Sierra Nevada Corp. and Brazilian subcontractor Embraer SA (ERJ) in December 2011. Since then, it has been protested by Beechcraft Corp., canceled, re-bid, re-awarded and contested yet again.
Federal contract protests have almost doubled in six years, which may partly reflect heightened competition for a shrinking pool of awards. The challenges, which automatically halt work, have delayed aircraft used to fight wildfires as well as light-attack planes and related training for the Afghan Air Force.
“You have to have aircraft in order to train,” said Taco Gilbert, a vice president at Sparks, Nevada-based Sierra Nevada, which is providing avionics and instruction under the contract.
Sierra Nevada officials had planned to supply the first of Embraer’s 20 turboprop aircraft in April 2013, Gilbert said. Instead, they won’t be delivered until mid- to late 2014, as the U.S. plans to withdraw the last of its combat troops from Afghanistan.