Soon up: Embraer's KC-390.

Author:Biass, Eric H.
Position:What's Up?

Well that's it, with the roll-out of the KC-390 from Embraer's Xavan Peixoto's works on 22 October 2014 the Western World--and there is every economical reason to believe that Brazil is part of the Western World--has earned itself its second significant new-generation military transport aircraft. What is best is that while the two aircraft involved--the first was the Atlas A400M that had its maiden flight in December 2009 and the KC-390--will not be competing one against the other, they are already setting new thinking patterns in their own niches.

From a market point of view this draws an entirely new, and yes unprecedented, picture as neither the United States nor the Russians are involved. Apart from an umpteenth iteration of the venerable Hercules and after the unfortunate demise of the AN-70, the medium and medium-heavy military world transport future should orbit around these two new types in the foreseeable future (even the improved C-17B project was abandoned in the even heavier slot). In a rather interesting and unusual twist of events, the larger and longer range aircraft has propellers and the newest and smaller one has turbofans. It is all the more interesting given the fact that the latter, the KC-390, otherwise fits in the somewhat broken-in shoes of the Hercules which is turboprop engined. Speedwise, both the Atlas and the KC-390 belong to the same league, the former hitting the Mach 0.72 mark and the latter 0.80. And apart from the fact that both boast capabilities as in-flight refuellers, this is about all the two have in common since one will break contact with the planet at max 141 tonnes and the other at 81.

While as hinted above the KC-390 is looking at new ways of handling the transport duties so far carried out by the latest generation of the Hercules (the C-130J now generally and affectionately referred to as the Juliet), current President of Embrear Defence & Security Jackson Schneider flatly refuses to draw any performance comparison with the American aircraft. This shows a dramatic change in Embraer's management attitude compared with its more aggressive and optimistic approach of recent years. We shall avoid dwelling into matter for conjecture here, but suffice to say that Embraer has grown considerably since, that more interests in every acceptance of the word now have to be preserved, and that Embraers world sales record-beating Phenom biz-jets are also built in Melbourne (the Florida one). Nevertheless, and...

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