Sierra Nevada Corporation announced June 19 that it has submitted the final components of its response to the U.S. Air Force’s request for proposal for its Light Air Support Program.
SNC is partnering with Embraer to provide the A-29 Super Tucano counterinsurgency aircraft to meet the LAS mission requirements.
The two companies teamed together and previously won the competition only to have the contract set aside following a lawsuit by the disqualified competitor. The A-29 Super Tucano is the only aircraft in the competition that is currently in use with military around the globe and performing counterinsurgency and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations.
SNC is participating in the new LAS source selection process while it also pursues court action to reinstate the contract awarded to it last December.
“Our goal one way or the other is to get the LAS capability into the hands of those who need it in the most expeditious, fair and transparent manner,” said Taco Gilbert, vice president of ISR Business Development at SNC. “We have the most capable LAS aircraft and our overall solution meets the needs of our warfighters and allies on the ground in Afghanistan today, while also providing significant value to the American taxpayer.”
The LAS mission requires a ready-to-go, non-developmental aircraft designed to operate in a counterinsurgency environment and extremely austere conditions at a significantly lower cost than a fighter jet. Yet, it must be able to deliver a wide variety of munitions and provide most of the technological and communications capabilities of a modern fighter.
The A-29 Super Tucano was purpose-built for counterinsurgency and light air support missions. It is currently in use or on order with nine militaries on three continents to provide security, light air support, advanced training, and armed ISR operations. It has a rugged platform and high, broad stance that provides stability on rugged terrain and enables take-off and landing on unprepared runways.
“The need for the LAS capability in Afghanistan hasn’t changed, it’s only become more urgent,” said Gilbert. “While nearly a year and a half has passed since the original RFP was issued, the A-29 Super Tucano remains the only aircraft in the running that is combat-proven and capable of meeting the needs of commanders in-theatre today.”
While the original RFP contained a flight demonstration, the amended version contains no such requirement. This makes the proven performance of the A-29 Super Tucano all the more valuable. With more than eight years in service and more than 160 aircraft delivered, much is known about the performance, operational effectiveness and costs to operate and maintain the A-29 Super Tucano. The A-29 Super Tucano fleet has achieved an average of over 84 percent availability and 99 percent mission effectiveness.
The A-29 Super Tucano aircraft to be provided under the LAS contract will be built in the U.S. in Jacksonville, Fla., by American workers with parts and services from some 70 US companies. Approximately 86 percent of each aircraft’s dollar value will come from components supplied by U.S. companies or countries that qualify under the Buy American Act. In all, more than 1,200 American jobs will be supported through the contract, including the creation of new aerospace jobs in Jacksonville. Embraer will invest approximately $3 million in bringing the U.S. production facility on line. The facility, its first defense-related operation in the U.S., will complement its growing U.S. operations.
“Embraer’s U.S. roots go back more than 30 years to 1979 when we established our first U.S. company in Ft. Lauderdale. Since that time, we have invested $115 million in facilities and infrastructure here,” said Gary Spulak, President of Embraer Aircraft Holding. “While other companies are moving industrial and research and development operations out of the U.S., we see tremendous opportunity and a highly talented aerospace workforce here.”
Last year, Embraer opened its first U.S. aircraft assembly facility and a new Global Customer Center for Executive Jets in Melbourne, Fla., employing 200 people. In March, the company announced establishment of the Embraer Engineering and Technology Center USA – also in Melbourne. This research and development center will employ 200 aerospace engineers.
“We are offering the U.S. Air Force the low-risk solution. Our aircraft is operational today and its performance and costs are well-documented,” said Gilbert. “SNC and Embraer are strong and growing companies that are investing in the U.S. and creating new jobs here. Both companies are here to stay.”