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Dec. 28, 2011—
The Government Accountability Office has dismissed Hawker Beechcraft's protest against the Air Force over the elimination of the company's AT-6 aircraft in the Light Air Support competition.

But Hawker Beechcraft is not abandoning its fight, announcing on Tuesday that it is filing a suit with the Court of Federal Claims.

GAO auditors found that the company failed to request a debriefing from the Air Force and to file its complaint with GAO within the statutory deadlines after the Air Force notified the company last month of its exclusion from further consideration in the LAS contest, according to GAO's decision, dated Dec. 22.

"We are disappointed in the GAO's decision as we were relying on their investigation to provide transparency into what has been a bidding process of inconsistent, irregular, and constantly changing requirements," said Bill Boisture, the company's chairman and CEO.

He added, in explaining the company's decision to file the federal suit: "We find ourselves still without answers, which is unacceptable, and continue to believe that our exclusion from this important contract was made without basis in process or fact."

Teamed with Lockheed Martin, Hawker Beechcraft was offering the Air Force its AT-6 to be the LAS platform.

Under LAS, the Air Force aims to procure 20 light aircraft for the Afghan air force.

According to GAO, the Air Force opted to eliminate the AT-6 after finding "multiple deficiencies and significant weaknesses" in Hawker Beechcraft's proposal.

On Nov. 1, the Air Force sent the notice of exclusion to the company, according to GAO.

Despite Hawker Beechcraft's assertion, it "is beyond dispute" that service officials properly sent the notice to Hawker Beechcraft's designated contracts manager, states the agency's decision.

The company received the notification on Nov. 4. Under the federal acquisition regulation, it had three days to request a debriefing and 10 days to file a protest.

However, it did not did not request a debriefing until Nov. 15—eight days after the statutory deadline. The Air Force refused to grant the request based on the FAR.

After the service turned down Hawker Beechcraft's second debriefing request, the company lodged its protest with GAO on Nov. 21.

"Where [Hawker Beechcraft] did not timely request a debriefing, and failed to file its protest until 17 days after it was notified that its proposal had been excluded from the competitive range, the protest is untimely and must be dismissed," reads GAO's decision.

Hawker Beechcraft on Tuesday warned that the AT-6's exclusion "could result in a de facto award" of the LAS contract "to a non-US company."

That is apparently a reference to Brazil's Embraer, which is teamed with US company Sierra Nevada in offering the Air Force the former's Super Tucano to be the LAS platform.

"As a US company, we believe we deserve a fair chance at this contract," said Hawker Beechcraft's Boisture.