Air Force says bidding process for light-air-support contract still on track

An Air Force award for a light air support contract for 20 aircraft for the Afghan air force is taking longer than estimated.

The Air Force’s latest request for proposal said it expected to award the contract in January.

The contract is expected to total about $350 million,

“The LAS contract award is not delayed,” Major Maureen Schumann, an Air Force spokeswoman, said in an e-mailed statement. “The January date in the RFP (request for proposal) was an estimate from which to allow offerors to base their proposals. We are taking our time to ensure a deliberate, thorough process and expect a source selection decision in early calendar year 2013.”

There are two bidders: Wichita-based Hawker Beechcraft, which has proposed its AT-6 attack aircraft, a version of its T-6 trainer, for the project, and Sierra Nevada Corp., which partnered with Brazil-based Embraer to offer its Super Tucano.

The planes are to provide the Afghan National Army Air Corp. with a fixed-wing strike capability. They are to be delivered over five years.

The effort to secure a contract has taken nearly three years and has been fraught with delays and legal challenges.

It was first awarded to Sierra Nevada, but the contract was overturned after Hawker Beechcraft filed a complaint questioning the award. After a review uncovered problems with the process, the Air Force asked both parties to resubmit their bids.

Sierra Nevada then filed a protest with the courts, but the judge ruled the corrective action was appropriate, because the documentation on the procurement “was in shambles and would require significant effort to assemble.”

In addition, the ruling said the documents appeared to show favoritism and bias toward Sierra Nevada.