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Embraer KC-390 MRTT reaches initial operational capability (IOC)
February 22, 2018
Embraer KC-390. Photo credit: Embraer

Embraer KC-390 MRTT reaches initial operational capability (IOC)

On December 20, Embraer announced that its KC-390 multi-role tanker and transport (MRTT) aircraft has achieved initial operational capability (IOC) with the Brazilian Air Force (Força Aérea Brasileira: FAB).

In its press release, Embraer states, “The achievement of the IOC ensures the necessary conditions have been met for the aircraft to start operations, in accordance with the scope agreed upon with the FAB.”

As part of the IOC process, Embraer received the Provisional Type Certificate from the Brazil National Civil Aviation Agency (ANAC) for the KC-390.

Lauding the milestone, the President and CEO of Embraer Defense & Security stated, “The certification campaign has progressed as planned and the tests performed have been very successful, proving the maturity of the aircraft and confirming the performance and the anticipated capacities.”

Embraer did not provide the specifics of the KC-390’s IOC tests, but the company outlined that the aircraft – via its two prototypes – flew a combined 1,500+ hours and saw through 40,000 hours of non-flight tests relating to its subsystems. The KC-390 will soon complete its structural tests.

Embraer plans on acquiring the Final Type Certificate for the KC-390 from the ANAC in 2018, which is also the expected timeframe in which the FAB is to receive its first serially-produced KC-390s.

Notes & Comments:

Designed as a potential successor to the Lockheed Martin C-130B/E Hercules, the KC-390 can lift a payload of 23 tons to a range of 2,815 km (in contrast, the C-130J-30 can fly 3,334 km with a similar payload). The payload can translate into either 66 paratroopers, one 8×8 armoured fighting vehicle, one Black Hawk or other medium-lift utility helicopter or two armoured 4×4 vehicles (Embraer).

The KC-390 is powered by two International Aero Engines (IAE) V2500-A5 turbofan engines. The IAE V2500-A5 also equips the Airbus A320, which means that the KC-390 benefits from the fuel efficiency and lifecycle cost-effectiveness of an ubiquitous commercial airliner – Embraer claims the KC-390 has the “lowest life-cycle cost on the market” for military transport aircraft of its class.

Besides transport, the KC-390 can also serve as an in-flight refueling (IFR) tanker using two Cobham Wing Air Refueling Pods with hose-and-drogue systems. The KC-390 uses Rockwell Collins’ Pro Line Fusion on-board avionics suite (e.g. cockpit human machine interface system). In terms of cargo management, the KC-390 uses a Continuous Computed Drop Point (CCDP) algorithm to account for speed, wing and altitude to provide an optimal release point for the cargo and parachuting personnel.

With a forecasted market of 700 legacy C-130s needing replacing worldwide, Embraer hopes to secure at least $1.5 billion U.S. in business per year through KC-390 sales. Besides pitching the KC-390’s apparent cost-effectiveness and versatility, Embraer might also be able to offer prospective customers a credit line extended by the Brazilian government for the purpose of supporting the country’s defence exports.

Portugal is negotiating for five KC-390s. If closed, this would be the KC-390’s first export sale (currently, Embraer’s firm orders – i.e. 28 aircraft – are solely from the FAB). Other prospective sales are in Argentina, Chile, Colombia and the Czech Republic, which could collectively result in up to 26 aircraft.

  • ahmria

    Pakistan should consider these KC-390 to replace some if not all of our older C130 Hercules. It would be interesting to find out if its hot and high capabilities could handle operations in Pakistan.

    • Steve

      We should aim to build a helicopter, a UCAV, a stealth fighter and a transport plane either new design or under licence with progressive manufacture. We have a requirement in all these areas. I think we should look at the bigger picture and aim for commonality with allies like NATO do. Buying off the shelf Chinese equipment though an easy way out is not a good long term plan.

      • Wasim Baig

        I dunno, I keep thinking that with AI and drones, all of this will soon be obsolete, ala Kodak and Nokia. We really need to think out of the box and skip this whole 4th/5th generation. And start some serious investment into technology that leapfrogs our threats.

        • ahmria

          I know what you mean. The Americans have already started early design and development work on their F22 successor. Having said that all this design and development requires a serious effort on the part of government to actually invest as much as the country can afford in education and infrastructure for projects like these over the long term.

      • ahmria

        I hear you Steve but first we need the government and maybe even the military to invest in education,research facilities to build up our collective knowledge, experience and industrial base to the point where we can tackle these projects without making too many comprises and ending up creating flawed designs like our neighbour.

    • Joseph

      Embraer is a credible commercial jet producer so KC-390 should be all right. It is similar to C-130 in capacity and due to use of jet engines it should be quite a bit faster. The best of all it should be cheaper than C-130 according to wikipedia.

      So yeah, it should be a decent replacement for C-130.

      • Steve

        Does anyone know what the PAF total requirement is? Numbers I mean.

        • Joseph

          According to wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_active_Pakistan_Air_Force_aircraft Pakistan has 18 C-130 currently in service, so to replace them I guess Pakistan would also needs 18 KC-390.

          It is said on wikipedia those C-130 were bought in 1960s, so I’d say they probably need to be replaced soon.

          • Steve

            Anyone have any back taxes to pay Pakistan exchequer lol? Maybe some nice politicians with properties in Dubai and London, and secret bank accounts in Switzerland?

          • ahmria

            Why don’t we get Zadari and Nawaz to pay some of their taxes and also sell some of their mansions lol.,

          • TZK

            As a cheap option France and Germany are retiring their Transall C-160 which are comparable to C130 but some of these were built in 80’s and have been upgraded. Maybe even start producing them under licence. Turkey also uses the C160.

          • TZK

            Looking at the Wiki link there seems to a quite a few VIP planes listed. Perhaps we should sell a few of these and get our ‘VIP’s’ to use PIA.

          • Joseph

            C-160 is not exactly a direct replacement, it has a payload of 16 tons instead of 20 tons of C-130.

            KC-390 has payload of 26 tons, it can do whatever C-130 can do (maybe not the hot and high bit). But C-160 maybe can not.

            The only turboprop equivalents of C-130 I think are Ukraine An-12 or Chinese Y-8, and of course C-130 itself.

            Apparently Pakistan bought 4 Shaanxi ZDK-03 (Y-8 F600, the latest Y-8 variant with Pratt and Whitney turboprop engines) in 2011. But that is for airborne early warning and control.

          • TZK

            The older C-160’s probably at the end of their useful life. They are short take off and landing which would be in their favour and essentially are an intermediate lifter between a helicopter and a large plane such as A400m. They have less range than C130 but range would not be an an issue for use in Pak internally. Generally a good cheap workhorse so you can spend the money elsewhere i.e ‘force multipliers,.

          • PewPew

            Here’s a real tragedy … a few years ago the US scrapped 16 G.222s (predecessor to the C27A Spartan) given to Afghanistan for a total of $32,000. Originally, the planes (worth nearly $500 m) were given to the Afghan Air Force, who couldn’t use them.

            It’s shocking the US didn’t at least try flipping the planes for $20-30 m to Pakistan. I think these G.222s could have been a great way to build up the short-range tactical transport fleet.

            http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/us-turns-486-million-afghan-air-fleet-32000/story?id=26083173

          • TZK

            As an arms producer/exporter nation it probably was in their economic interest to destroy them and therefore remove them from the market rather than sell them cheaply to Pak.

    • Violet

      But…but just in one other thread someone said that Pakistan should buy Mi-28 attack helicopters on top of T-129, AH-1Z and Mi-35 helicopters. Before that someone else said that Pakistan should buy Su-35 for its naval needs. Even before that, someone else from Pakistan said that PAF should buy J-31 and TFX alongwith spending in R&D of Project Azm to have all three 5th gen aircrafts at the same time so that they can defeat darth vader’s army invading from Mars. Then there is a commentor who says pakistan should buy S-400, launch military satellites and operate nuclear submarines. And now one overtly optimistic commentor says Pakistan should buy KC-390.

      I wonder what kind of joint is being passed along in Pakistan these days. Because the last time i checked Pakistan had hard time dishing out $700 million USD for buying F-16s from US after US declined “free lunch” in the form of Foreign Military Funding. But thank god Turkey came along, with their hefty loans and grand promises for offsets…otherwise T-129 would also have remained a pipe-dream.
      Sorry but I dont think KC-390 is Turkey’s or even china’s for that matter. Infact an overwhelming majority of items in pakistan’s “dream” list are not.

      • Joseph

        I seems Brazil overall has a good relationship with Pakistan: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brazil%E2%80%93Pakistan_relations

        The article here says Brazil may offer loans for KC-390 as well: https://quwa.org/2017/04/06/brazil-will-offer-credit-line-defence-exports/

      • Steve

        Most weapons manufactures can offer or arrange loans and almost nobody buys with cash up front. That’s just a fact. With costs spread out a lot of weapons become affordable. It’s not a bad idea to plan for future. This is a forum of defence enthusiasts so that’s just natural.

      • TZK

        FYI This a military forum where people give their opinions on weapons systems and they are not required to familiarise themselves with the Pak treasury’s balance sheet before giving an opinion. If they have a wish list for Pak why should it worry anyone else? We know India is rich and can afford all the fancy new military hardware so why are you even bothered about a wishlist for Pak?

      • ahmria

        Pakistan has bought munitions from Brazil and has a good relationship with them. I’m not like some of the other posters on here and I am aware of Pakistan fiscal constraints. However I feel that the KC-390 will be priced competitively as it is Embraer first attempt to take customers from the Hercules. I’m also pretty sure that should Pakistan show real interest Brazil and Embraer would be willing to negotiate for a sale.

        • Re: the PAF the issue with the KC-390 may be its design more so than cost. Pakistan maintains a trade deficit with Brazil, and while that’s nothing to celebrate as a macroeconomic scorecard, it does afford Pakistan some leverage (i.e. their sellers need our buyers). I don’t think Brazil would be averse to extending a credit line if it means securing a relatively credible user for a new platform either (they had done so for the MAR-1).

          The big issue is the fact that the KC-390 isn’t a suitable successor for the C-130 in the PAF’s hot-and-high heavy operational requirement. Even if we ignore the fact that the PAF is upgrading the C-130s, the KC-390 is unlikely to provide the same level of utility in the Northern Areas. With the KC-390 the PAF will effectively require a complementary turboprop aircraft for hot-and-high.

          *One* scenario where the KC-390 might matter is as a MRTT. The IAE V2500 engines are both very common in terms of support and spares (via the A320) and fuel efficient, certainly more so than the IL-78. The IL-78s won’t be going anywhere either (good heavy transport), but if there’s a need for an expanded AAR fleet, the KC-390 could be a good option.

          • Jigsaw

            HI Bilal, I thought the KC 390 was particularly designed as “direct challenger” for C130 Hercules, with harsh environments in mind considering they are pitching it all over the world especially ME.

            http://www.janes.com/article/68007/brazilian-airlifter-on-schedule-idex17d3

            http://www.nationshield.ae/home/details/research/kc-390-most-advanced-aircraft-in-its-category

            I thought it could very well make a good case for PAF.

            ?

          • In general, yes, but hot-and-high generally necessitates turboprop engines to generate lift (esp. in STOL runways) as turbofans don’t work well with warm and thin air found in high elevation areas. The C-130 is a solid asset for that environment, even those with apparent alternatives have gone with it due to how well it operates in that environment relative to its operating costs and long-term life-cycle costs.

            That said, I’ve heard some say the A320 does pretty well in hot/high conditions, but I’m unsure if they’re referring to the newer LEAP-equipped variants or the older V2500 models (i.e. the engine used by the KC-390).

            PS: I got your earlier post. Deleted it with the post it was responding to (which, to be fair, was grossly off-topic – my bad approving it).

          • Jigsaw

            Ahan. Let’s wait and see in that case what PAF decides in this area.

            Thanks for taking note of the post. Much appreciated.

          • PewPew

            imho … the PAF ought to really consider the Antonov An-70. Its payload capacity is in the area of the A400M and it being powered by four propfan engines should provide for ample power in hot-high conditions.

      • Jigsaw

        And you are just another Indian troll. This is a defence forum and he is trying to contribute. What else people discuss here if not further acquisitions and new ideas? For once, show that you people do not come here merely for trolling Pakistani defence acquisitions.

        @mods. I would request you to put him on notice for the kind of non-serious / trolling incitements in his comment. Thank you.

  • Asif Khan_47

    Boeing and Embraer partnering arrangements for the KC-390 tactical airlifter, they will have agreed to partnership in selling close to 700 KC-390 all over the world. AFAIK, PAF will most likely leaning towards getting C-130 replacement from between China’s Shaanxi Aircraft and Ukraine’s Antonov Aviation joint project called Shaan-Anton Aircraft Engineering Center.

    • Joseph

      I think you could be right. It turns out China has been working on a new turboprop tactical transport aircraft called Y-30, which is supposed to be the slightly smaller Chinese equivalent of A400M, to compliment the new strategic Y-20 transport aircraft, and replace Y-8 and Y-9.

      It’s payload is supposed to be around 30 ~ 35 tons and of course as a new clean sheet aircraft it should come with all the latest technologies such as composite materials, fly by wire, etc.

      The reason for Y-30 development seems to be that the cargo bays of Y-8 and Y-9 are not big enough to transport newer light tanks and armored cars. Y-8 and Y-9 are both based on old An-12 design, no longer suitable for transporting increasingly larger and heavier modern military vehicles and equipment.

      It has been reported roughly $1.4 billion US (9.2 billion yuan) has been allocated to the Y-30 project development: http://www.eastpendulum.com/la-chine-demarre-conception-nouvel-avion-transport-y-30 (French)

      The first prototype of Y-30 could be flying in 5 years. It could be the most suitable replacement and upgrade for Pakistan’s C-130.

      Chinese Y-9 ($45 millions) is also relatively new (in service 2012), costs about half of C-130J ($90 millions) but with about the same capacity, and costs much less than KC-390 ($70 millions) as well according to: http://nationsdawnofanera.weebly.com/transport-aircraft.html It could also be a decent replacement for C-130.

      • Re: Y-9, worth noting that the PAF already flies the Y-8 via the Karakorum Eagle AEW&C. So the logistics infrastructure to operate the Y-9 is largely already in place. However, the C-130s are being upgraded quite extensively, I don’t think they’re going anywhere in the foreseeable future.

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