Sierra Nevada Beats Beechcraft

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) The U.S. Air Force has awarded Sierra Nevada Corp. a contract worth more than $350 million, dealing a major blow to Wichita-based Beechcraft as it emerges from bankruptcy protection.

The announcement Wednesday means Sierra Nevada will build at least 20 light air support planes in Jacksonville, Fla., for use in Afghanistan. The contract could ultimately be worth nearly $1 billion, depending on future orders.

The planes would give the Afghan National Army Air Corps a fixed-wing strike capability.

Beechcraft, formerly Hawker Beechcraft, had proposed the AT-6 attack aircraft, a version of its T-6 trainer. Sierra Nevada Corp. partnered with Brazil-based Embraer to offer its Super Tucano.

The competition for the award has taken nearly three years and has been plagued by delays and legal challenges.