Embraer (Chalet B387) is showing a Super Tucano in the static park here for the first time. “This aircraft has a great future; air forces from all over the world have been asking us about it since we won the U.S. Air Force competition,” Embraer Defense and Security CEO Luiz Carlos Aguiar told AIN. Also here at Paris, Aguiar is promising a new announcement about the KC-390, the Brazilian design that could be a serious competitor in the future market for airlifters.
The Super Tucano at the Paris Air Show belongs to the air force of Mauritania, which took delivery last October. It is one of 10 air arms now flying the upgraded turboprop, which can perform a variety of missions, from light attack, to border surveillance to advanced pilot training. More than 160 have now been delivered, including a large number to the Brazilian air force, which drove the design. Embraer boasts that more than 130 weapons configurations are available, including 70mm rocket launchers, air-to-air missiles and laser-guided bombs, totally integrated into the aircraft’s mission system, with a laser designator.
The aircraft was finally confirmed for the much-contested and litigated U.S. light air support (LAS) requirement in March. The initial contract is worth $427.5 million to Embraer and its American partner Sierra Nevada, including 20 aircraft that the U.S. will provide to Afghanistan. But Aguiar noted that the IDIQ-type contract (indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity) is worth up to $950 million in total. He told AIN that he did not know when the Pentagon would offer the aircraft to other countries as part of the Building Partnership Capacity scheme. “I expect they will wait for us to deliver the initial batch first,” he said. To that end, the Embraer factory in Jacksonville, Florida, where the aircraft will be assembled “is already up-and-running,” he added. “We will deliver the first one in June next year.”
The KC-390 was similarly designed to Brazilian air force specifications, but could appeal widely as a C-130 or An-12/24/26/32 replacement. Aguiar reckons the aircraft could get 15 percent of the market, which is for 723 aircraft in 77 countries. He admitted that competing aircraft came from countries with more geopolitical clout. “Therefore we have to be competitive on price, which will be attractive,” he said. The all-new, twin-turbofan design will offer lower maintenance and lifecycle costs than other airlifters, he believes.
Of course, it helps that Brazil is providing 95 percent of the non-recurring costs to develop the KC-390, estimated at $2.2 billion. But Embraer has gathered an interesting group of industrial partners in countries that have a collective requirement for 32 new airlifters. They are Argentina (six); Chile (six), Colombia (12); Czech Republic (six) and Portugal (two). In the latter country, Embraer now owns 65 percent of MRO provider OGMA.
The KC-390 preliminary design review was completed last August, and Embraer is now fabricating the first two prototypes.