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Embraer KC-390 MRTT reaches initial operational capability (IOC)
August 20, 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.