About Me

My photo
MILITARY TECHNOLOGY (MILTECH) is the world's leading international tri-service defence monthly magazine in the English language. MILITARY TECHNOLOGY is "Required Reading for Defence Professionals". Follow us on Twitter: MILTECH1

16 June 2015

Paris Air Show 2015: Embraer’s European Presence

At Paris Air Show, Brazil’s Embraer is focusing much of its activity and energy on showcasing the great steps forward it has made in Europe. At a briefing by the company’s senior executives in Évora, southern Portugal, MT has learned much of what lies behind a growing success story as Embraer builds on significant investment and expands the impact its European activities are having on its own programmes – in both the civil aviation and the defence and security fields – and on its major customers in both domains.

Of the 210 A-29 Super TUCANO light strike and training aircraft ordered, 190 have already been delivered to ten air forces and the fleet has over 230,000 flight hours and 30,000 combat hours under its belt. Six of the aircraft ordered by the US Air Force under the LAS programme have already been delivered since the aircraft was rolled out last September and training of 30 Afghan pilots and 90 maintenance crew is already under way at Moody AFB in Georgia.

Embraer’s investment in its Portuguese manufacturing and research & development facilities stems from a review of the company’s future started in 2006, according to Joao Pedro Taborda, the company’s Director of External Relations for Europe, Middle East and Africa, based in Paris. The resulting ‘Global Strategy 2008-2018’ focused on three essentials for continuing development: consolidating the technology portfolio in key areas for development and manufacturing of future products; improving production capacity and operational efficiency, particularly in critical supply areas; and implementing an infrastructure aimed at enabling growth in manufacturing and customer service.

The result has been, in part, the establishment of two Centres of Excellence at Évora, sat side by side in a purpose built plant with in excess of 300 employees overall. The final investment decision, totalling €177 million, was taken in 2008 and the plants officially opened for business in September 2012. Embraer Compósitos SA and Embraer Metálicas SA, focused respectively on composite and metallic components engineering and manufacturing, have been seen from the very start as integral parts of Embraer’s global activities. “These are the only 100% Tier 1 companies in the group outside of Brazil: it’s important to recognise these are unique plants – not just extensions of the corporate footprint,” says Taborda.

The proof that these are not just words but represent a true commitment to global development by Embraer come when the facilities of the two plants are reviewed. For example, as well as the largest autoclave in the group, Évora houses the longest milling machine tool anywhere in Embraer’s manufacturing facilities. At 20m, the tool is the only one capable of manufacturing the wing skin for the KC-390 transport/tanker – 18.4m of high quality manufacturing process. Thus the continuing development of the aircraft will involve the development of expertise and manufacturing technology across continents, “which proves the whole concept behind developing Centres of Excellence,” in Taborda’s words.

EMB 145 Multi Intel

The investment in the Évora facilities has been substantial – but there is significant involvement, too, from Portugal and the European Union. “The Portuguese government is very keen to develop its aerospace industry,” says Taborda and adds that the company has a framework agreement with the Évora University – one of Portugal’s leading engineering schools. This becomes obvious when touring the plants, where a significant number of the engineering staff are young local graduates. Of particular interest is the high proportion of female members of the engineering staff – over 30% of the total, according to Taborda.

Embraer’s involvement with the EU goes beyond the use of regional funds for development, however. The company is ramping up involvement in a number of EU research and development projects, with one such project already approved and several more at the bid development process. Already approved is the ‘Future Sky Safety’ project, in which the company is contributing to collaborative safety research for the entire aerospace community. In current development are projects examining the contribution of materials technologies to aviation safety, morphing wing profiles and the ‘Internet of Things,’ – examining the potential for integrating smart objects into manufacturing processes. “In other words, we’re trying to work on fields like materials and technologies that can also be applied to automation in plants, structures and shapes – mainly on low Technology Readiness Levels at the moment, so far from commercial applications,” says Taborda.

A good deal of the focus at Le Bourget will undoubtedly be on the commercial aspect of Embraer’s aircraft line, which has boosted the company to market leader for aircraft in the 70-130m seat market. But the defence and security market, while not currently as large as the civil domain, is certainly receiving attention and investment from the company, as Jackson Schneider, President and CEO of Embraer Defense & Security (DS), pointed out.

In 2014, Defense & Security accounted for just over 22% of corporate revenues,” he said, going on to say that the future looks quite bright. “Just taking a look at the KC-390 programme, for example, at the last Latin American Defense exhibition we had 44 separate foreign delegations to our stand – some at a very high level – all expressing serious levels of interest in the aircraft. We have a very good prospect of being able to announce a second customer for KC-390 in the near future,” he said.

Embraer KC-390

The interest can, in part, be ascribed to the increasing attractiveness of multiple mission platforms at a time when existing fleets are being stretched to their limits and the constraints of fitting particular airframes to specific missions are being felt more than ever before. “The whole concept of ‘one platform, multiple missions’ is gaining traction on a daily basis, and the ability of the KC-390 to undergo a customer-managed configuration change in a matter of hours is something that potential users are really interested in,” says Schneider. With the Brazilian requirement for 28 aircraft confirmed last year and a successful first flight test in February this year, the programme seems set for some interesting positive developments in the immediate future.

He also takes seriously the concept of the company being a ‘strategic defense company,’ with capability in depth in areas such as complex project management and a proven ability to establish strategic partnerships to develop and retain advanced technologies. “Our supply chain [for the KC-390] for example is very international already – and it can change significantly is that change contributes to greater competitiveness,” he says.

Other aircraft programmes within Defense & Security are also continuing to evolve. Of the 210 A-29 Super TUCANO light strike and training aircraft ordered, 190 have already been delivered to ten air forces and the fleet has over 230,000 flight hours and 30,000 combat hours under its belt. Six of the aircraft ordered by the US Air Force under the LAS programme have already been delivered since the aircraft was rolled out last September and training of 30 Afghan pilots and 90 maintenance crew is already under way at Moody AFB in Georgia.

A good example of the company’s intent to develop success-oriented strategic partnerships, according to Schneider, is the agreement inked with Saab in April this year for joint programme management of the GRIPEN bid for the Brazilian Air Force – which will include joint development of the two seater variant.

But Embraer is not just about platforms: It is a serious player in several other areas of the defence and security business, both directly and through its growing network of subsidiary companies. Its plan for OGMA, which it co-owns with the Portuguese government, is set to expand the company’s aerostructures manufacturing and maintenance, repair and overhaul facilities – for engines as well as airframes – over the next ten years. Radar manufacturer BRADAR is heavily involved in synthetic aperture radar for defence and security applications – including the massive Amazon Basin surveillance project currently under way in Brazil. ATECH is developing ever more advanced command and control systems for the Brazilian and other armed forces, as well as being a significant player in the air traffic control business – and is tasked with development of the power control and nuclear electrical generation systems for the future Brazilian nuclear submarine.

Multi-faceted, globally committed and technologically advanced, Embraer in all its guises is well worth a visit during Le Bourget – particularly to examine the way in which globaol companies are leveraging the opportunities a European footprint offers.
Tim Mahon

No comments:

Post a Comment