Embraer expects to sign the first firm order for the KC-390 airlifter and tanker in the first quarter of 2014, as the pace of development and testing accelerates 20 months ahead of the scheduled first flight milestone.
“We will fly this aircraft at the end of next year, which is like saying, tomorrow – it’s so close, but we’ll do it,” says Paulo Gastão Silva, Embraer’s KC-390 programme director.
Embraer is already on contract to build the first two KC-390 prototypes for the flight test programme. Six countries have signed commitments to buy 60 more of the twinjets: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, the Czech Republic and Portugal.
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 (29 tons) of cargo, including wheeled armoured fighting vehicles.
The aircraft is powered by two IAE V2500-E5 turbofans generating 139.4 kN(31,330 lbf) thrust each.
The KC-390 is capable of carrying out various missions, such as transporting cargo, troops or dropping paratroopers, and aerial refueling, search and rescue, medical evacuation and aerial firefighting, in addition to supporting humanitarian missions.
The aircraft can transport cargo at a maximum speed of 470 knots (870 km/h), as well as operate in hostile environments, including from unprepared or damaged runways.
Other than Brazil, five countries have tentatively agreed to buy the KC-390 since 2010, along with Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Czech Republic and Portugal.