May 9, 2012 ASDNews (AFP)
Brazil's Embraer said Tuesday it would participate in a new US Air Force contest to build 20 light attack aircraft for Afghanistan after the $355 million contract the company won in December was canceled.
A company spokesman confirmed to AFP comments by Luiz Carlos Aguiar, chief executive officer of Embraer Defense and Security unit, suggesting that Embraer was confident its AT-29 Super Tucano warplane would win again.
The AT-29 Super Tucano, a turboprop aircraft designed for low-threat environments, is used to conduct advanced flight training, aerial reconnaissance and light air support operations.
"We are entering the contest with a little bit more concern because we had already signed the contract. But with the new conditions which give a major weight to the past experience of aircraft in combat, we think we will win again," he told the Folha de Sao Paulo daily.
Last month, the US Air Force announced it was reopening the bidding and that a draft request for proposals would be presented to the companies competing for the job, US-based Hawker Beechcraft Corp. and Brazilian manufacturer Embraer, which is aligned with the US firm Sierra Nevada Corp.
But a final decision for the contract will not be made before early 2013, the US Air Force said in a statement, with the first planes due to be delivered in the second half of 2014.
The new schedule will mean "a delay of about 15 months" from original plans, before US officials called off the award, the statement said.
Embraer and Sierra Nevada were awarded the $355 million contract in December, but the US Air Force called off the deal in February after a legal challenge from rival Hawker Beechcraft Corp.
The Pentagon's handling of the aircraft contract could have repercussions in Brazil, where the government is holding a lucrative competition for new fighter jets.
A Brazilian government source, speaking on condition of anonymity, has said that the cancellation of the Embraer contract would "be taken into account" when Brasilia decides on a tender for 36 aircraft for its air force valued between $4 billion and $7 billion.
Brazil is expected to choose between the Rafale, made by French firm Dassault, the F/A-18 Super Hornet, manufactured by US aviation giant Boeing, and Swedish manufacturer Saab's Gripen jet.
The US Air Force chief, General Norton Schwartz, said in February the contract cancellation was an "embarrassment" and vowed to quickly renew the contest.