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Embraer (Empresa Brasileira de Aeronáutica), one of the world’s largest aircraft manufacturers, received a $1.3bn development order from the Brazilian Air Force (FAB) for its KC-390 medium-weight military transport jet in April 2009. The new high-wing aircraft made its first flight in February 2015 and is expected to enter service by the end of 2019. The launch of the KC-390 means competition in the 20t air transport segment has intensified.
Features of the KC-390 will be in compliance with the new National Defence Strategy and meet the needs of the FAB. The new aircraft will replace 22 Lockheed Martin C-130E/H and KC-130 that are currently a part of the FAB.
The aircraft achieved initial operating capability (IOC) in December 2017 and received type certification in October 2018.
Orders and deliveries
National Aeronautical Enterprise Empresa Nacional de Aeronautica (ENAER) of Chile signed a contract with Embraer in August 2010 to jointly build the KC-390 aircraft for the Chilean Air Force (CAF). Approximately six KC-390 aircraft will be procured by the CAF.
The Brazilian Air Force expressed its desire to acquire the KC-390 aircraft at the 47th Farnborough International Airshow held in the UK in July 2010 and signed the series production contract for the aircraft in May 2014.
The R$7.2bn ($3.3bn) contract will see the company supply 28 KC-395 aircraft over a period of ten years. The contract also includes a logistical support package, including spare parts and maintenance.
Embraer signed a letter of intent (LoI) with SkyTech for the purchase of up to six KC-390 multi-mission aircraft in February 2018.
KC-390 technical details
The twin-turbofan-powered KC-390 can be refuelled in flight and can be used for in-flight or on-ground refuelling of other aircraft. The new 20t jet is technically advanced and has fly-by-wire technology, which optimises mission results to reduce pilot workload. It also helps increase the safety and capability for operating on short and rustic runways.
The military aircraft has a cargo bay equipped with an aft ramp similar to Hercules, and is capable of transporting a wide variety of cargo (weighing up to 26t), including armoured vehicles.
It is outfitted with state-of-the-art loading and unloading systems for handling cargo.
A study on the KC-390 (earlier named C-390) aircraft was presented at LAAD 2007. The research and development expenses of C-390 were $600m and shared among Embraer and various partners led by the FAB.
KC-390 utilises computed air release point (CARP) technology integrated with fly-by-wire system to provide greater accuracy during air dropping, thereby reducing crew workload.
The twin-engine jet-powered Embraer KC-390 also integrates the technological solutions developed for Embraer 190 commercial aircraft. It is expected to carry 84 military personnel and the cargo cabin will be configured for transporting the wounded or sick, on medical evacuation (MEDEVAC) missions. It will also be used for in-flight refuelling, search and rescue missions.
The KC-390 is the largest and most complicated aircraft ever undertaken by Embraer. It is also the Brazilian manufacturer’s first new military product in more than a decade. It was assembled at Embraer’s Gavião Peixoto plant in Brazil.
Considering the delays in the production of Airbus A400M military airlifter and the time taken by Lockheed Martin to achieve full operational capability with the C-130J, both Embraer and its competitors say that developing KC-390 will not be easy.
Although the Brazilian Government will be funding, any delay in the development would weaken Embraer’s defence growth.
Participation of other countries and companies is being evaluated in consultation with the FAB.
FAdeA was awarded a partnership contract by Embraer Defence and Security (EDS) in April 2011 to build and supply spoilers, nose gear door, ramp door, flap fairings, tail cone and electronic cabinet.
Boeing and Embraer signed an agreement to co-operate on the KC-390 aircraft programme in 2012.
Rheinmetall is responsible for providing training devices for KC-390 aircraft, including cargo handling, procedure and maintenance trainers as well as flight and mission training systems.
Embraer and the FAB concluded the critical design review (CDR) of the KC-390 aircraft in March 2013. The definitive aerodynamic and structural configurations, as well as the architecture and systems installations were confirmed for the immediate production of the first prototype aircraft.
The avionics include two head-up displays (HUD), self-defence system and night-vision goggle (NVG).
Rockwell Collins signed an agreement with EDS in May 2011 to supply its Pro Line Fusion avionics system for the aircraft. The system will render improved situational awareness and decrease the workload of the pilot.
Embraer awarded a contract to BAE Systems on 27 July 2011 to supply and install flight control electronics in the KC-390 transport aircraft.
Goodrich Corporation will design, build and supply primary flight control systems as part of an agreement signed with Embraer on 27 July 2011. It will supply electro-hydrostatic actuators, electro-backup hydrostatic actuators, actuator electronics and electrical controls.
International Aero Engines (IAE) was chosen by Embraer in July 2011 to design, develop, supply and install V2500-E5 powerplant in the KC-390 aircraft. IAE is a consortium comprising Rolls-Royce, United Technologies Unit, Pratt & Whitney and Japanese Aero Engine Corp.
IAE delivered the first three prototype V2500-E5 powerplants for Embraer’s new KC-390 aircraft in early 2014 and the remaining three in May of the same year. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certification for the new engine model was granted in August 2014.
ELEB Equipamentos designed, manufactured and supplied the landing gear system for the aircraft as part of a contract signed with EDS in March 2011.
It built a rugged and reliable system that enables the aircraft to operate with heavy payloads and land even in semi-prepared airfields. The KC-390 is also equipped with double chamber shocker absorber system and modern hydraulic systems.
The KC-390 can fly to a maximum altitude of 10,973m. Its maximum speed is 987.8km/h. The normal and ferry range of the aircraft are 2,590km and 6,130km respectively. The aircraft weighs around 23,600kg and its maximum take-off weight is 74,400kg.
The Global Military Aircraft Market 2011-2021
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