Based on the request of the Brazilian Air Force, the development of an aircraft to replace the C-130 Hercules was started in 2006. Initially designated as the C-390, EMBRAER based its design and technologies on their E-Jet airliner series.
While Russia still has a lot of work to do after Ukraine cut off its supply of engines to develop medium-range transport aircraft, the Brazilian Embraer aircraft manufacturing group has successfully developed the KC-390 modern medium-range military transport aircraft.
The Embraer KC-390 has been tested at Yuma Proving Ground, USA. Extremely dangerous, low-flying technical flight tests have been carried out for full featured testing
The Embraer KC-390 is a medium-size, twin-engine jet-powered military transport aircraft under development by Brazilian aerospace manufacturer Embraer, able to perform aerial refuelling and to transport cargo and troops. It is the heaviest aircraft that the company has made to date, and will be able to transport up to 26 tonnes of cargo, including wheeled armoured fighting vehicles. With the successful production of this transport aircraft, Brazil officially entered the national group capable of manufacturing large transport aircraft.
Based on the request of the Brazilian Air Force, the development of an aircraft to replace the C-130 Hercules was started in 2006. Initially designated as the C-390, EMBRAER based its design and technologies on their E-Jet airliner series. After it was decided to include a tanker variant in the C-390 program, its name was changed to “KC-390” to emphasize this new capability. By 2013, the KC-390 program has cost US$2.25 billion to develop, and the unit cost is expected to be US$50 million when production begins. This aircraft was first publicly revealed in 2014.
As we see on the media, the KC-390’s final design has the same shape and function as Japan’s Kawasaki C-1 and C-2. Embraer built the KC-390 around the 18.5m long, 3.45m wide and 2.95m high hold with a rear ramp. It is outfitted with state-of-the-art loading and unloading systems for handling cargo.
Its twin turbofans are mounted forward on the high wing with anhedral angle, slats and up to 40° flaps High-lift devices. The nose is very short and swept downward, to maximize the aircrew’s forward visibility, and as with many military cargo aircraft, the horizontal stabilizer is mounted on top of the vertical stabilizer in an “all-flying tail” configuration.
The landing gear has low-pressure tires, two on the nose and four on either side bogies for soft, unpaved ground or damaged runways.
The new 20t jet is technically advanced and has fly-by-wire technology, which optimises mission results to reduce pilot workload. The cockpit has head-up displays for the enhanced vision system with four cameras and Rockwell Collins Pro Line Fusion commercial avionics.
There is also a night vision system, a GPS system, and a Computed Air Release Point system that allows for the automatic opening of the cargo doors and release of cargo at a specific point in mid-air.
The aircraft can carry 26t including: two fully tracked M113 armored personnel carriers, one Boxer or Brazilian VBTP-MR Guarani wheeled armored vehicle, a Sikorsky H-60 helicopter, 74 litters with life-support equipment, up to 80 soldiers or 66 paratroopers with full gear, and loads of up to 19t can be air dropped. The KC-390 can refuel in flight other aircraft through two wing-mounted probe and drogue pods from Cobham plc.
The twin-engine jet-powered Embraer KC-390 also integrates the technological solutions developed for Embraer 190 commercial aircraft. It is expected to carry 84 military personnel and the cargo cabin will be configured for transporting the wounded or sick, on medical evacuation missions. It will also be used for in-flight refuelling, search and rescue missions.
The KC-390 is equipped with two IAE V2500-E5 turbofan engines, providing 139.4 kN (31,330lb) thrust each. International Aero Engines was chosen by Embraer in July 2011 to design, develop, supply and install powerplant in the KC-390 aircraft. International Aero Engines is a consortium comprising Rolls-Royce, United Technologies Unit, Pratt & Whitney and Japanese Aero Engine Corp.
With these two engines, the KC-390 can fly at a maximum speed of 987.8km/h with a maximum altitude of 10,973m. The normal and ferry range of the aircraft are 2,590km and 6,130km respectively and its maximum take-off weight is 74.4t.
The KC-390 is expected to be a formidable rival to the US C-130J Super Hercules on the military tactical airlifter market. Compared to the C-130J, the KC-390 is expected to be 15% faster, carry an 18% heavier payload, and cost 41% less to purchase. And although it has a 15% shorter range than the C-130J, the KC-390 is capable of aerial refueling.
Potential in the export market
A total of 68 KC-390s have been ordered by 2014, by seven different nations. These are Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, the Czech Republic, and Portugal.
In addition to the aircraft already ordered by the Brazilian military, they currently plan to acquire a further 100. France also planned to acquire 12 KC-390s, though the order has not been placed. Israel, South Africa, and Sweden are also reportedly evaluating the KC-390 for possible purchase. Several civilian companies have also expressed interest in purchasing them.
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