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28 June 2016

Embraer KC-390: Capable, Flexible, Affordable

The KC-390 is a military transport aircraft developed to establish new capacity and performance standards in its category, delivering at the same time the lowest life-cycle cost in the market, according to Jackson Schneider, President and Chief Executive Officer Embraer Defense & Security (DS).

KC-390 in paratrooper tests. (All photos via Embraer)

Touted as a genuine multi-mission aircraft, it can transport and launch cargo and troops (already proven on one of the two prototype aircraft currently going through testing) and perform a wide array of missions, such as medical evacuation, search and rescue, and aerial fire fighting, among others. The KC-390 can also perform aerial refueling (air-to-air refueling - AAR) operations with great flexibility, being capable of refueling from helicopters to high-performance fighter aircraft…on paper. According to Schneider, AAR tests so far included hose extraction, showing the hose being very stable during high and low drogue extension. “Dry AAR tests will start this year, first refueling aircraft, with helicopter AAR coming shortly after,” he said.

With daily flights of prototype 001 and 002, more than 320 flight hours have been achieved in eight months; surpassing all requirements, according to the industry expert. “A third test aircraft will be delivered to the Brazilian Air Force, to be delivered beginning 2018,” he explained. While two more prototypes are available for static tests, 001 will be flown to Farnborough Airshow 2016, with a demonstration tour following in countries in Europe, Middle East, and Africa. Schneider said the tour will start in Europe and might include the Czech Republic.

Equipped with a modern cargo handling system, the KC-390 can transport large-sized cargo, such as pallets, vehicles, helicopters, in addition to troops, paratroopers, medevac stretcher or mixed configurations. The state-of-the-art integrated avionic system and a fly-by-wire flight control facilitates the aircraft piloting, reducing pilot workload and increasing the mission’s efficiency. The KC-390 can also be equipped with an advanced self-defense system and ballistic protection in critical areas, which increases its capacity to operate in hostile environments. Embraer builds the wing skins (18.4m, largest metallic part Embraer ever built) and skins of the horizontal stabiliser (Empennage: 11.9m, largest composite part Embraer ever built) in √Čvora, Portugal.


  • Maximum concentrated payload: 26 metric ton
  • Maximum distribuited payload: 23 metric ton
  • Maximum cruise speed/ Mach Number: 470 knots/0.80 Mach
  • Maximum operational altitude: 36,000 ft (cabin altitude 8,000 ft)
  • Range with 23 metric ton: 1,380 nm
  • Ferry range: 3,350 nautical miles
  • Cargo configuration: 80 soldiers, 66 paratroopers, 74 stretches, seven 463L type pallets, three HMMWVs, one BLACK HAWK helicopter, one LAV-25, among others.