Embraer KC-390 Gathers International Momentum

 - September 17, 2010, 9:25 AM
Embraer’s KC-390 provides a jet-powered alternative to the C-130 Hercules. (Embraer)
In the last few weeks the Embraer KC-390 jet tanker/transport program has gained four international partners, who have expressed their intentions to purchase the aircraft and to participate in its development and manufacture. Following the announcement at Farnborough in July that the Brazilian air force would initially acquire 28 KC-390s, the latest announcements raise prospective sales to 54.

Chile was the first new partner. On August 24 the Brazilian and Chilean defense ministers signed a declaration of intention covering the participation of Chile’s ENAER (Empresa Nacional de Aeronáutica) in the development and construction of the KC-390. ENAER already supplies ERJ-145 structures to Embraer. As part of the agreement, negotiations have opened concerning the acquisition of six KC-390s for the Chilean air force.

Earlier this month Colombia joined the KC-390 team, with a prospective order for 12 aircraft plus some participation. Soon after, Brazilian defense minister Nelson Jobim embarked on a European tour, during which two additional partnerships were agreed. The first, signed in Lisbon on September 10, covered industrial participation by Portugal and the potential purchase of six aircraft. Three days later, Jobim signed a similar agreement in the Czech Republic, which has initial plans to buy two KC-390s.

These agreements are almost certainly not to be the last for the KC-390 program, especially as development partnerships and potential acquisitions have formed part of the proposals made by France and Sweden for Brazil’s F-X2 new fighter competition. Despite outgoing President Lula announcing the Rafale as the winner a year ago, the F-X2 competition is far from concluded. It is widely believed that any announcement is being delayed until after the forthcoming elections, and might even lead to the competition being reopened.