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US GAO denies Air Tractor light attack bid protests

13 February 2020
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Air Tractor had protested the Textron Aviation AT-6B Wolverine becoming a US Air Force light attack sole source solution for experimentation on a datalink solution. The GAO denied its protests. Source: Jane’s/Gareth Jennings

Key Points

  • Air Tractor loses a pair of bid protests over the US Air Force's intent to buy a small quantity of light attack aircraft from SNC and Textron Aviation
  • This clears the way for the service to buy these aircraft unless Air Tractor sues the USAF

The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) has denied a pair of Air Tractor bid protests over the US Air Force's (USAF's) intention procure a handful of light attack aircraft, Jane's has learned.

Air Tractor filed its protests on 1 November and 20 November. An industry source told Jane's on 21 November that the company was protesting the determination that led to the Textron Aviation AT-6B Wolverine becoming a sole source solution for experimentation on a datalink solution.

The source said at the time that that the Light Attack Experiment (LAE), of which Air Tractor, Textron Aviation, and A-29 Super Tucano developer Sierra Nevada Corp (SNC) participated, was never intended to be an acquisition event. The source said countless statements by USAF Chief of Staff General David Goldfein, former secretary Heather Wilson, and other service leadership confirmed that.

Requests for comment were left with Air Tractor and the GAO prior to publication.

Air Tractor and its L3 Technologies-Air Tractor AT-802L Longsword aircraft participated in the first phase of the LAE in 2017 but was not invited to participate in the second phase. The USAF announced on 25 October that it was to buy a "limited number" of turboprop aircraft to satisfy the current phase of its LAE. It issued final requests for proposals (RFP) for between two to three A-29s and two to three AT-6Bs for this further experimentation.

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