I assert today that the Wall Street Journal, normally really on top of things, has blown its story about Hawker-Beechcraft's lawsuit against the USAF over its selection of Embraer's A-29 Super Tucano as a counterinsurgent attack aircraft. Here' s how the thing starts:
Brazilian-based aircraft manufacturer Embraer SA won an important victory in late December, when the U.S. Air Force picked one of its planes to equip Afghanistan's military. But Embraer's foothold in the U.S. defense market is now in question: rival Hawker Beechcraft Corp. is fighting in court to keep the Air Force from moving forward with the project. Defense analysts and observers say the legal tussle over the warplanes underscores how difficult it can be for foreign-based firms to crack the U.S. military market.
The emphasis, of course, is mine; the article does nothing to make that point. It definitely cites some smart and well-respected people (Richard Aboulafia, David Berteau, etc.) on how getting a foothold with US military customers is difficult. It certainly can be, but the article does not even attempt to connect that matter to the lawsuit. Had Boeing won this contract with, say, a new version of the (A)OV-10 Bronco, Hawker would or would not have still had grounds to sue, but purely on the issue of its exclusion. The domicile of the winning contractor is not at issue.
Now, it's possible that Hawker will, in its arguments to the public at large, throw up some canard (as the folks at Boeing did against Airbus in the tanker competition) about American jobs. As Embraer (like Airbus) is offering to build the airplanes in the US, that would be pretty much nonsense. Hawker Beechcraft is indeed in bad financial straits, whatever its success recently selling more King Airs to armed forces everywhere, as that's not quite enough to sustain the company. So the lawsuit is not a shocking business strategy. We've seen enough of the same from Eastman-Kodak in the last few months to recognize what's going on.
I don't expect that the lawsuit will succeed, as American courts (outside of those loonies on the Ninth Circuit) have generally been loathe to substitute their legal opinions for military judgment. What's more annoying is that the USAF is putting up with it, issuing a stop-work order. In the article, a spokesman for Embraer and Sierra Nevada (its American partner) notes that a ruling isn't expected until March. That's two months more without planes that are presumably needed on the front lines. That's two months more of somebodies possibly getting killed fighting the Taliban because of a lawsuit. This wasn't the sort of thing that was tolerated in the 1940s, so it's mystifying why it should be tolerated now.