L-3 defends Kenyan Air Tractor deal


Kenya specifically asked for the L-3 Technologies-configured Air Tractor AT-802 aircraft and not L-3’s rival IOMAX, according to L-3 officials, but IOMAX nevertheless continues to contest the sale of 12 armed AT-802Ls to Kenya.

Speaking to IHS Jane’s ahead of the Paris Air Show, Pat Penland, vice-president of Transport Programs at L3 Platform Integration told the publication that “The Kenyans did ask for us specifically by name, requesting the L3-configured Air Tractor after conducting a market survey during which they visited our facility in Waco, Texas, and also Air Tractor. They looked at the aircraft and the programme, and then contacted the USAF and initiated the FMS case. The USAF then issued the request to L3 – there was no USAF selection process, they were just responding to a specific Kenyan request.”

At the moment the US Congressional Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is investigating the proposed AT-802L sale after opposition from US Congressman Ted Budd. In a letter dated 18 May, the Committee sent a letter to Heather Wilson, Secretary of the Air Force, stating that “The Committee is interested in learning more about the decision to award this [$418 million] contract despite evidence that L-3 has no weaponized border patrol aircraft in service and has limited past performance in manufacturing aircraft of this type.”

The letter also suggested the US Air Force selected the airframe “on a basis inconsistent with established protocol” relating to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certification.
“Given the national security implications of such a FMS sale, we would like to learn more about the US Air Force’s pattern of acquisition with regard to weaponized border patrol planes,” the Committee said, and requested documents by 2 June 2017 on the proposed Kenyan contract, as well as similar US Air Force contracts over the last five years.

The Committee is also seeking documents in an attempt to find out more about US Air Force contracts with L-3 and IOMAX as IOMAX is challenging the proposed Kenyan sale via Congressman Budd, who represents the district in which IOMAX is based. In February, Budd introduced a motion to stop the sale pending a Government Accountability Office (GAO) audit and oversight investigation into the deal.

IOMAX claims that L-3 and Air Tractor have misrepresented the AT-802U/L/OA-8 Longsword and that IOMAX’s Archangel aircraft can be supplied to Kenya at a much lower price. Kenya is also looking to acquire two Air Tractor AT-504 trainers. IOMAX argued that L-3 was being sold an uncertified platform still under development. Kenya has apparently asked for weather radar and unique communications systems for the AT-802s.

At the Paris Airshow this week, Penland told Monch Group that L-3 hopes the Kenyan sale will move along shortly. “We expect to complete the contract formalities within months. They are keen because they fulfil a need they desperately want.”

Joseph Siniscalchi, an L-3 senior vice president for business development, told Aviation Week that Kenya has asked to extend its current letter of agreement through the middle of September, at which point the deal could be extended or Kenya could start the process over.

The AT-802L Longsword can be armed with up to 3 000 kg of Hellfire missiles, LAZU-19 rocket pods, GBU-12 laser-guided bombs and 7.62 mm gun pods. Sensors include an MX-15D HD electro-optical/infrared turret with laser designator. Other avionics include a glass cockpit and Thales Scorpion helmet-mounted display. The Longsword features strengthened wings for a 11 700 hour fatigue life, or around 20 years. L-3 says the Longsword costs around $1 000 per flight hour to operate.

Protection includes an armoured cockpit, self-sealing fuel tanks, the AN/AAR-47 infrared warning receiver and an AN/ALE-47 electronic warfare countermeasures dispenser system.

L-3 earlier this month announced it had received a Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for the updated digital avionics and cockpit for its AT-802L Longsword, based on the earlier armed AT-802. The Longsword features an enhanced cockpit which includes the Garmin G600 system including dual screen Primary/Multi-Function displays, an air data computer and attitude/heading reference system, a digital intercommunication system, and an L3 next-generation Electronic Standby Instrument System. 

L-3 exhibited the Longsword platform at the International Paris Air Show as part of its outdoor static display.