FAB KC-390 freighter completes first in-flight refuelling mission


The Brazilian Air Force's (FAB) future freighter, KC-390, has successfully completed the first in-flight refuelling mission.

Conducted by FAB’s military personnel in collaboration with professionals from Brazilian aerospace company Embraer, the mission saw the KC-390 multi-mission medium transport aircraft making contact with FAB F-5M fighters.

The flight test campaign tested the freighter’s wing air refuelling pod (WARP), which is located under the wings of KC-390 and operates the 30m long refuelling hose.

While the contact for the current flight test was dry, which means that no fuel was transferred, all other procedures included in the in-flight refuelling mission were carried out.

KC-390 in-flight test engineering leader Raphael Leme said that the most important thing to be tested is the ability of the WARP software to strain the hose, in a way such that it can neither form waves nor can be called dead hose when there is no lift.

During the tests, flights are carried out throughout the envelope of the aircraft, which are the most critical conditions of the aeroplane owing to the minimum and maximum speed and altitude.

"While the contact for the current flight test was dry, which means that no fuel was transferred, all other procedures included in the in-flight refuelling mission were carried out."

FAB KC-X programme technical manager lieutenant-colonel Fernando Benitez Leal said: “Since the F-5M and KC-390 have different envelopes, it is necessary to find a third envelope, at the intersection of the between the two aircraft, to carry out refuelling.”

Currently, two prototypes are performing in-flight testing simultaneously, while a third is in the finalisation phase.

The KC-390 test campaign schedule will continue until the end of next year and will involve more than 2,000 flight hours for the development and certification tests.


Image: In-flight refuelling tests of Embraer’s KC-390 transport / tanker aircraft seen from the cockpit of an F-5M fighter. Photo: courtesy of FAB.