Embraer conducted a ceremonial rollout of the prototype KC-390 airlifter at Gaviao Peixoto in Brazil on October 21. The company said that more than 30 countries were represented at the event, and that guests included Brazilian defense minister Celso Amorim and air force commander Bg. Gen. Juniti Saito. A first flight is planned by year-end, with deliveries starting two years later. A second prototype is also being built.
“The KC-390 will be the backbone of the air force’s air transportation network. It will be able to operate in both the Amazon and Antactica. The jet engines give the aircraft enormous agility in fulfilling all of its missions, faster and better,” said Saito. The Brazilian air force has ordered 28 KC-390s and has participated in its development.
Embraer expects orders for an additional 32 aircraft from the five other countries whose industries have been offered supplier roles in KC-390 production. They are Argentina (six), Chile (six), Colombia (12), the Czech republic (six) and Portugal (two). None of them has yet signed a firm contract. In June last year, Boeing agreed to help Embraer market the KC-390, but that was before Brazil rejected the American company’s F/A-18 Super Hornet in favor of the Saab Gripen as its new fighter. When asked about the joint marketing plan last June, Jackson Schneider, president and CEO of Embraer Defense & Security, said it was “too early to say” how that plan might proceed.
Schneider additionally said that the KC-390 is “seven airplanes in one, because it is so easy to reconfigure for different missions.” These include cargo and troop transport and airdrop; aerial refueling; search-and-rescue; and fire-fighting. Schneider said that the aircraft’s key selling points include the high cruise speed (470 knots); cruising altitude (36,000 feet); and wide fuselage cross-section (3.45 by 3.2 meters). The maximum payload is 23 tonnes.
“The KC-390 features the latest-generation avionics, including full closed-loop fly-by-wire and automatic envelope protection,” he added.