Air Force Opens Revised Competition for Afghan Aircraft

The U.S. Air Force is restarting its stalled competition for as much as $1 billion to buy 20 light-attack aircraft for the Afghanistan military.

A revised request for proposals will be issued and contains only “minor changes,” Air Force spokeswoman Jennifer Cassidy said today in an e-mailed statement. A new award will be made early next year, with first aircraft deliveries expected 18 months later, she said.

“We haven’t changed the criteria, just better clarified how the proposals will be assessed,” Cassidy said. “The changes will more clearly define the evaluation criteria and tighten the decision-making process.”

The document doesn’t open the contest to companies other than the initial competitors -- pitting Sierra Nevada Corp. and its Brazilian subcontractor, Embraer SA, against Hawker Beechcraft Corp. Brazil is monitoring the case because the deal would mark a breakthrough for its biggest aircraft maker.

Hawker, a closely held company that is 49 percent owned by Goldman Sachs Group Inc., had protested the Defense Department’s Dec. 30 decision, which would have given Sierra Nevada an initial $355.1 million to provide a turboprop aircraft for the Afghan military.

The Air Force canceled the contract in February and General Donald Hoffman, commander of the Air Force Materiel Command, started an investigation into its selection process.

The first part of the inquiry was completed last month and “focused solely on the execution of the Air Force source selection processes/procedures in the original contract,” Cassidy said without elaboration.

“A new source selection team was appointed to evaluate the new proposals,” she said.

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