WASHINGTON - The US Air Force insisted on Wednesday it had briefed both US defense contractor Sierra Nevada Corp and Hawker Beechcraft Corp and got their input on plans to redo a bungled competition to supply 20 light planes to Afghanistan.

Privately held Sierra Nevada Corp, which is partnered with Brazil's Embraer, said on Tuesday it had filed a lawsuit in federal court against the US Air Force to win back a $355 million contract that the Air Force abruptly canceled in February. It said the Air Force had not adequately explained its decision to scrap the initial deal.

The lawsuit has raised concerns about how soon Afghan forces will receive the already delayed light support planes, a move US officials say is particularly important given U.S. plans to withdraw most of its forces from Afghanistan.

The incident has been an embarrassment for US Air Force acquisition officials, who have been at pains to rebuild their reputation after a procurement scandal in the early 2000s in which a former Air Force weapons buyer and a former Boeing chief financial officer were sent to prison for ethics violations.

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