The U.S. Air Force recently announced that it was going to reissue a request for proposals for the Light Air Support (LAS) aircraft. This was supposed to be a relatively simple, off-the-shelf aircraft that could be used by U.S. allies such as the fledgling Afghan Air Force. To allow enough time to get the aircraft into the field and train the Afghans, the first LAS had to be built and deployed by Spring 2013.
For those of you who haven’t been following this saga, two teams competed for the contract, one led by Hawker Beechcraft and the other by Sierra Nevada Corporation. Last year, the Air Force first disqualified Hawker Beechcraft and then awarded a contract for 20 LAS to Sierra Nevada. Hawker protested to the Government Accountability Office unsuccessfully, and then sued in federal court. In January of this year the Air Force did an about face. It announced that the documentation on which it relied in making the decision to disqualify Hawker Beechcraft was inadequate and cancelled the contract with Sierra Nevada.
Now, having lost four to six months and wasted lots of government and corporate money, the Air Force is about to start over again. Unfortunately, by the time the new RFP is released, new proposals written by the same two teams, a new award made and a contract negotiated, another three to four months will have gone by.
One outstanding issue is whether or not the Air Force will require a performance demonstration as part of the new competition. It would seem to make sense to ask the two teams to prove that their offerings will actually perform as advertised.
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