KC-390 roll­out trig­gers global com­pe­ti­tion

With the launch of the multi­na­tional pro­gramme, Em­braer has sig­nalled to the world that it is a for­mi­da­ble force in the air trans­port seg­ment

SP's MAI - - FRONT PAGE - [ By R. Chan­drakanth ]

Brazil’s aero­space and de­fence be­he­moth Em­braer De­fense & Se­cu­rity re­cently rolled out the first pro­to­type of the KC-390 pro­gramme, thus heat­ing up global com­pe­ti­tion in the 20-tonne trans­port cat­e­gory. With the launch of the multi­na­tional pro­gramme, Em­braer has sig­nalled to the world that it is a for­mi­da­ble com­peti­tor in the air trans­port seg­ment.

Em­braer KC-390 is a tac­ti­cal trans­port air­craft de­signed to set new stan­dards in its cat­e­gory, while pre­sent­ing the low­est life-cy­cle cost of the mar­ket. It can per­form a va­ri­ety of mis­sions, such as cargo and troop trans­port, troop and cargo air de­liv­ery, aerial re­fu­elling, search and res­cue and for­est fire­fight­ing. It is the heav­i­est air­craft the company is mak­ing.

Brazil­ian Air Force back­ing

It is a project of the Brazil­ian Air Force (FAB). In 2009, FAB hired Em­braer to per­form the air­craft de­vel­op­ment. Un­der the pro­gramme, in­dus­trial part­ner­ships were also es­tab­lished with Ar­gentina, Por­tu­gal and the Czech Repub­lic. Cur­rently, the pro­gramme is in the test­ing phase prior to the first flight, sched­uled to take place

in late 2014. After the first flight, Em­braer will be­gin the de­vel­op­ment and cer­ti­fi­ca­tion flight test cam­paign. The first de­liv­ery of the KC-390 is sched­uled for the sec­ond half of 2016. In May 2014, Em­braer opened the hangar where the fi­nal assem­bly of the KC-390 mil­i­tary trans­port jet was in­stalled, in Gav­ião Peixoto. On the oc­ca­sion, Em­braer and the Brazil­ian Air Force signed the con­tract for se­rial pro­duc­tion of the KC-390, which pro­vides for the ac­qui­si­tion of 28 air­craft, mark­ing the be­gin­ning of a new phase of the project. Be­sides the or­der by the Brazil­ian Air Force, there are cur­rently in­ten­tions to pur­chase 32 air­craft by Ar­gentina, Chile, Colom­bia, Por­tu­gal and the Czech Repub­lic.

Equipped with two V2500 tur­bo­fan en­gines pro­duced by In­ter­na­tional Aero En­gines, next-gen­er­a­tion avion­ics, rear ramp and an ad­vanced cargo han­dling and aerial de­liv­ery sys­tem, the KC-390 will have an ex­cel­lent op­er­a­tional pro­duc­tiv­ity.

The air­craft will be pro­duced at the plant in Gav­ião Peixoto, São Paulo state, in fa­cil­i­ties of over 30,000 square me­tres of hangars to house parts, com­po­nents and assem­bly lines of the KC-390. The de­vel­op­ment of the KC-390 project takes place in Eugênio de Melo, a dis­trict of São José dos Cam­pos, and about 1,500 Em­braer em­ploy­ees are di­rectly in­volved in the pro­gramme, which also means the cre­ation of ap­prox­i­mately 7,500 in­di­rect jobs. When se­ries pro­duc­tion has sta­bilised, the KC-390 pro­gramme will gen­er­ate another 1,100 di­rect jobs and 5,500 in­di­rect jobs. More than 50 Brazil­ian com­pa­nies are par­tic­i­pat­ing in the de­vel­op­ment and pro­duc­tion of the KC-390.

The KC-390 is ca­pa­ble of car­ry­ing up to 26 tonnes of cargo at a max­i­mum speed of 470 knots (870 kmph), with abil­ity to op­er­ate in aus­tere en­vi­ron­ments, in­clud­ing un­paved or dam­aged run­ways. The fuse­lage can ac­com­mo­date large loads, with ac­cess through a rear ramp. The mod­ern cargo han­dling sys­tem al­lows to quickly re­con­fig­ure the air­craft us­ing re­tractable rollers for mov­ing cargo on pal­lets or flat floor for trans­port­ing troops or ve­hi­cles. Dif­fer­ent types of loads can be trans­ported, such as pal­lets, ve­hi­cles, he­li­copters, troops (up to 80 equipped troops), para­troops (up to 66 equipped para­troops, which can jump us­ing the lat­eral doors or the rear ramp), stretch­ers for med­i­cal evac­u­a­tion (up 74 stan­dard NATO stretch­ers) or mixed con­fig­u­ra­tions.

The air­craft can fur­ther be used as a tanker us­ing two re­mov­able in­ner tanks, and has great flex­i­bil­ity to re­fuel both he­li­copters at low al­ti­tudes and speeds as high per­for­mance fighter air­craft at high al­ti­tudes and speeds. Pi­lot­ing the air­craft is fa­cil­i­tated by a mod­ern in­te­grated avion­ics sys­tem and a fly-by-wire con­trol sys­tem, which re­duces the work­load of pi­lots and in­creases mis­sion ef­fi­ciency.

Re­place­ment mar­ket of C-130

Em­braer has es­ti­mated that the re­place­ment mar­ket of the C-130 to be around 700 and that it was well placed with the KC-390 to take on the likes of the C-130J of Lock­heed Martin, A400M of Air­bus, An-12 of Rus­sia and the MRTA project of Irkut and HAL.

“This sig­nif­i­cant mile­stone of the KC-390 pro­gramme demon­strates Em­braer’s abil­ity to man­age such a com­plex and high-tech­nol­ogy project and to per­form it on track,” said Jack­son Sch­nei­der, Pres­i­dent and CEO, Em­braer De­fense & Se­cu­rity. “It paves the way for the be­gin­ning of the ground tests to pre­pare for the first flight.”

“The KC-390 will be the back­bone of the FAB’s air trans­porta­tion net­work. It will be able to op­er­ate in both the Ama­zon and Antarc­tica. The jet en­gines give the air­craft enor­mous agility in ful­fill­ing all of its mis­sions, faster and bet­ter,” stated Aero­nau­tics Com­man­der, Lieu­tenant-Bri­gadier Gen­eral Ju­niti Saito.

Re­place­ment of about 700 units

It was in 2006 that Em­braer started look­ing at mil­i­tary tac­ti­cal trans­port de­sign of size sim­i­lar to the C-130 Her­cules and the fol­low­ing year it an­nounced a medium-size air­lifter with the des­ig­na­tion C-390. The air­craft is said to in­cor­po­rate many of the tech­no­log­i­cal so­lu­tions from the Em­braer E-Jets se­ries. It fea­tures a rear ramp for load­ing and un­load­ing a wide range of cargo. The unit price is es­ti­mated to be around $50 mil­lion, while the com­pe­ti­tion sells sim­i­lar mod­els up to $62 mil­lion.

The Vice Pres­i­dent of Em­braer, Luís Car­los Aguilar, said that ac­cord­ing to their es­ti­mates, some 695 mil­i­tary trans­port air­craft in the world will need to be re­placed dur­ing the next decade, and that there is po­ten­tial mar­ket for this kind of plane. Po­ten­tial pow­er­plant op­tions have been stud­ied in the 75.6 to 98 kN (17,000–22,000 lb) thrust range, in­clud­ing en­gines such as Pratt & Whit­ney’s PW6000 and Rolls-Royce’s BR715.

Part­ner­ships and man­u­fac­tur­ing

The multi­na­tional pro­gramme has an­nounced part­ner­ships with Ar­gentina, Chile, Colom­bia and Por­tu­gal, be­sides Boe­ing shar­ing tech­ni­cal knowl­edge and mar­ket in­for­ma­tion. Sev­eral multi­na­tional com­pa­nies are part of the pro­gramme and they in­clude Czech company Aero Vodochody which was se­lected to build the rear fuse­lage sec­tion, etc; Ar­gen­itina’s Fab­rica Ar­gentina de Aviones the spoil­ers, nose land­ing gear doors, ramp floors, etc; DRS De­fense So­lu­tions the tanker/trans­port’s cargo han­dling and aerial de­liv­ery sys­tem; Rock­well Collins the Pro Line Fu­sion Avion­ics Sys­tems; Ester­line Cor­po­ra­tion sup­ply­ing the au­tothrot­tle sys­tem; Messier Bu­gatti Dowty (Safran Group) the wheels, car­bon brakes, etc; Lieb­herr Aero­space the en­vi­ron­men­tal and cabin pres­sure con­trol sys­tem; BAE Sys­tems the hard­ware, em­bed­ded soft­ware, sys­tem de­sign and in­te­gra­tion support of the flight con­trol elec­tron­ics; Goodrich Cor­po­ra­tion the con­tract to de­sign and pro­duce a fully in­te­grated fly-by-wire pri­mary flight con­trol sys­tem, etc; Selex Galileo’s Gab­biano Tac­ti­cal radar; El­bit Sys­tem’s sub­sidiary AEL to de­velop the self-pro­tec­tion suite, etc; His­pano Suiza (Safran Group) to sup­ply elec­tri­cal power dis­tri­bu­tion sys­tems; LMI Aero­space to build the com­plete wing slat sys­tem; Ea­ton Cor­po­ra­tion to sup­ply air­frame fuel sys­tem com­po­nents; Cob­ham plc to sup­ply re­fu­elling re­ceiver probes; Hamil­ton Sund­strand to sup­ply elec­tric power gen­er­at­ing sys­tem and the aux­il­iary power unit; Thales Group to pro­vide in­er­tial nav­i­ga­tion sys­tem; Sagem (Safran Group) the ac­tu­a­tor sys­tem; L-3 Avion­ics sys­tems to sup­ply GH-3900 elec­tronic standby in­stru­ment sys­tem; Honey­well Aero­space to pro­vide eN­fu­sion AMT-3800 in­marsat high gain antenna sys­tem; Northrop Grum­man to sup­ply hy­brid global po­si­tion­ing sys­tem, etc; and IAE V2500-E5 tur­bo­fan en­gine for the KC-390.

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