[Updated 1:15 pm, Feb. 20] Wichita-based Beechcraft — formerly Hawker Beechcraft — has officially emerged from bankruptcy with a new name, 2,000 fewer employees, $2 billion less debt, and one last shot at a bitterly contested Air Force contract to provide ground attack planes to Afghanistan. The Air Force’s decision on the Light Air Support program may come as early as this week.

Today’s announcement puts a nail in the coffin of Sinophobic speculation that Beechcraft would sell out to Beijing. The Kansas-based aircraft manufacturer did accept a $50 million “non-refundable deposit” from a Chinese firm, Superior Aviation Beijing, that was interested in acquiring it. But concerns overSuperior’s business bona fides and the security of Beechcraft’s defense programsultimately scotched the deal. Keep reading →

The proposed sale of bankrupt Hawker Beechcraft to a Chinese company will create no security problems for the US military, pledged Hawker chairman Bill Boisture in an exclusive interview with Breaking Defense. Keep reading →

[UPDATED with comment from outgoing Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz] Sierra Nevada Corp. unveiled its Super Tucano to the American public even as its lawsuit proceeds against the American government.

The Air Force initially decided to buy 20 of the light attack planes for Afghanistan, then unexpectedly cancelled the Light Air Support contract two months later in February — a decision Sierra Nevada is suing to reverse. Meanwhile, competitor Hawker Beechcraft, which had been pushing its AT-6 Texan II as the all-American alternative to the Brazilian-designed Super Tucano, is in the somewhat awkward position of potentially being bought by the Chinese. Keep reading →

Hawker Beechcraft delivers LAS proposal to USAF – all 8,800 pages of it – by hand to avoid more bureaucratic FUBAR. See SydneyFreedberg

“The acquisitions system is so fundamentally broken,” Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) executive Taco Gibert told Breaking Defense this morning. “Everybody loses.” Keep reading →

WASHINGTON [updated Friday 3:30 pm to add details from the Air Force statement and comment from Hawker Beechcraft CEO]: The Texan II is back in the saddle again. Next week, on Tuesday the 17th, the US Air Force will meet with both Hawker Beechcraft, which makes the AT-6 Texan II attack plane, and rival Sierra Nevada Corporation, which is offering the Embraer Super Tucano, to review a draft of a new Request For Proposal on the troubled Light Air Support program. If all goes well — which it certainly hasn’t so far — the Air Force expects to make its decision in early 2013 and deliver the first aircraft to Afghanistan in the third quarter of 2014, what its official statement released Friday afternoon admits is “a delay of about 15 months.” Keep reading →

It’s Texan versus Tucano, take two, and the embarrassed Air Force has got to get it right this time.

With all the claims, counter-claims, and rumors swirling about the controversial contract to buy the Embraer Super Tucano, which the Air Force cancelled unexpectedly on Tuesday and will likely re-compete, Breaking Defense went both to the rival companies and independent sources to distill this definitive guide to the competition, from the two planes’ performance to the manufacturers’ twenty-year history of feuding. Keep reading →