Photo via Aviation News
Next month, the Dept. of Defense will be deciding between two companies competing for an Air Force contract – the Hawker Beechcraft AT-6 and the Brazilian owned Embraer Super Tucano.
Why would they even consider outsourcing national security to a foreign company, subsidized by a government that has been unhelpful to the United States in the war on terror?
As Stephen DeMaura at RedState noted:
The Brazilian government’s direct control over Embraer would put the production of the light attack and reconnaissance aircraft at the mercy and whim of Brazil’s political leaders who too often do not see eye to eye with the United States on foreign policy issues. In fact, they have been noticeably absent from the War on Terror over the last decade. The same War on Terror from which they are now seeking to profit.
New Mexico State Senator William (Bill) H. Payne, a retired Rear Admiral (SEAL) in the United States Navy made the case for the Hawker Beechcraft AT-6, arguing that the United States is not in a position economically to provide jobs to foreign governments:
From the perspective of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) the decision is clear. Both aircraft are mission appropriate and cost roughly the same. However the acquisition of Hawker Beechcraft’s AT-6 has the added benefit of upholding ALEC’s free-market principles and creating significantly more American jobs – 1,400 spread across 18 states.
In 2009, the United States Air Force (USAF) issued a request for a new type of aircraft that could successfully perform light attack and armed reconnaissance (LAAR) missions. After reviewing numerous proposals and conducting extensive research, the USAF determined that the two leading contenders are Hawker Beechcraft’s AT-6 and Embraer’s Super Tucano. Hawker Beechcraft is an American company headquartered in Wichita, Kansas, while Embraer is a Brazilian company.
Embraer is heavily subsidized by the Brazilian government and is being supported by their Financing Agency for Studies and Projects (FINEP), which is helping to fund the research and development of this fleet. In fact, the aircraft that Embraer used in a recent demonstration for the USAF is actually owned by the Brazilian Air Force and was fully supported by them during their test runs. In contrast, Hawker Beechcraft has invested its own resources into the development, assembly, and flight demonstrations for their AT-6 aircraft.
In addition, the Brazilian government continues to hold what is known as a “Golden Share” in Embraer, which allows them to maintain an aggressive and active role in the governance of the company. It grants them veto power over previously agreed-upon stipulations of their contracts, including interruption in the supply of maintenance and replacement parts for military aircraft sold abroad.
This scenario is reminiscent of the recent $35 billion contract awarded to Boeing, which was locked in competition for years with European rival EADS to provide refueling tankers to the USAF. In Boeing’s case, its contract proposal was accepted because it is a longstanding and trusted aircraft provider with a superior product and existing production capabilities here in America. The Boeing Company has earned the confidence of our modern military and has a vested interest in serving and protecting our country. Their contract win also supports American jobs—some 44,000 in more than 40 states with over 300 suppliers.
Hawker Beechcraft possesses a profile very similar to Boeing’s. Hawker Beechcraft has a lengthy history of producing aircraft for both civilian and military use and has already successfully provided warplanes to the USAF and other branches of our military. It is a private, American enterprise that is participating in a joint venture with Lockheed Martin as it competes for this contract.
Aviation Week recently did a story on the Hawker Beechcraft AT-6:
For the Hawker Beechcraft/Lockheed Martin AT-6 light attack aircraft team, the mantra is to produce the right weapon effects.
“If you are talking about counterinsurgency target sets, you want to be able to pick the right weapon and precisely place it where and when it needs to be there,” says Dan Hinson, AT-6 demonstration and test manager and chief test pilot for the team. “That requires persistence and network-centric command and control.”
The team is competing against Embraer with the Super Tucano to supply 20 Light Support Aircraft to Afghanistan and potentially 15 aircraft to the U.S. Air Force for use in training foreign air forces.
For more endurance, the team is looking at ways to add fuel without diminishing capability.
“We are working on putting 325 pounds of extra internal fuel in the wings, which would give another 45 minutes to an hour of flight,” Hinson says. “I flew four to six hours and still had 400 pounds of gas. That was with the EO/IR [electro-optic/infrared] turret and external fuel tanks, but not weapons.
“If the mission is ISR [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance], we can stand out there a long time,” Hinson continues. “Five hours is very doable and four is a pretty good standard. Being able to hang out in the battle with the same guys on station without having to cycle out for inflight refueling provides an amazing [amount of continuity] for an airborne mission.”
Should the DoD give Hawker Beechcraft the contract, that would create 1400 jobs in America, while giving Embraer the contract would only create 50 jobs in America and the rest in Brazil.
One more thing: The Hawker Beechcraft AT-6 would allow for roughly 95% of both the male and female potential pilot population with weights as low as 103 pounds and as high as 245 pounds to safely fly the aircraft. The old standards to which the Brazilian aircraft complies, would prohibit 18% of military males and 81% of military females from safely ejecting from the aircraft in an emergency.
To me, this is a no-brainer.