Embraer Defense and Security is on course to complete the first prototype of the KC-390 tactical airlifter/tanker in time for it to make its first flight before the end of the year. At the specially built assembly site at Gavião Pexoto the fuselage of the first aircraft has already been partly painted in the colors of the Brazilian air force, which is the lead customer for the aircraft. The second aircraft is also in final assembly, and is scheduled to fly soon after the first machine.
Brazil has been committed to the KC-390 since 2010, and finalized its order for 28 in May. The first delivery is scheduled for the second half of 2016. Intentions to purchase have been recorded by Argentina (6), Chile (6), Colombia (12), Czech Republic (2) and Portugal (6). The Argentina air force (FAA), the Czech company Aero Vodochody and Portugal’s OGMA are all major industrial partners in the program.
Embraer forecasts a bright future for the type, which has carved out something of a niche for itself, falling between the short- and long-fuselage versions of the C-130 Hercules. “We have not designed an aircraft to replace the Hercules,” said Paulo Gastião Silva, VP KC-390 program. “We have designed an aircraft to meet the needs of the Brazilian air force.”
Nevertheless, the KC-390 inevitably draws comparisons, and Embraer is quick to point out the modern systems that the aircraft incorporates and its performance benefits. The aircraft offers a 1,380-nautical mile range with its standard maximum load of 23 tons, and can self-ferry over 4,640 nautical miles when fitted with two internal tanks. Those tanks can be used to increase patrol endurance for search and rescue missions, one of several tasks intended for the type.
Load capability for the KC-390 comprises up to seven 463L pallets, or six pallets with 36 troops. A concentrated payload capability to lift 26 metric tons is possible, and armored vehicles the size of the LAV-25 can be transported without having to remove the turret. In trooping configuration it can admit 80, or 66 paratroops, while in medevac configuration up to 74 litters can be carried, plus medical equipment and attendants.
Rough-field capability is provided for landing on strips of a CBR (California bearing ratio) 4 rating. Among the diverse tasks that the Brazilian air force intends to apply the KC-390 is the resupply of Brazil’s Antarctic scientific mission.