Embraer's progress on clean-sheet military program

  • 22-Nov-2011 04:51 EST

The Brazilian Air Force (FAB) has the final word on the selection of systems suppliers for Embraer's KC-390 that are considered as strategic, such as propulsion, avionics, mission, self-protection, cargo handling, and aerial delivery, among others.

It has been over two years since Embraer announced that it would be developing the KC-390 military airlift and tanker jet under a contract with the Brazilian Air Force (FAB), which established the requirements for the aircraft as it did with other Embraer military programs. In fact, the FAB has the final word on the selection of suppliers for systems considered as strategic, such as propulsion, avionics, mission, self-protection, cargo handling and aerial delivery, among others.

Since that time, there have been a number of announcements about the team that will be working together toward first flight and then production. The most recent, from the middle of November, was that IAE AG would be providing the powerplant, a militarized application of its V2500 engine and a new market for the company.

Engineering work on the V2500-E5 is underway at IAE—which stands for International Aero Engines–—consortium companies, including Pratt & Whitney, Rolls Royce, MTU, and Japanese Aero Engine Corp. First deliveries of the propulsion system for the prototype aircraft are expected to begin in 2013, with production powerplants expected in 2015.

Also very recently, from late October, is the Porto Alegre, Brazil-based company AEL Sistemas, which was selected to supply three components to the KC-390: the Self-Protection System (SPS); the Directed Infrared Countermeasures (DIRCM); and the Head-Up Display (HUD). It had previously announced in September that it would be supplying the aircraft’s mission computers.

According to AEL, the SPS will guarantee situational awareness and survivability in hostile environments, allowing the aircraft to detect and react to various threats. The KC-390 is being designed to have unique survivability requirements against ground-to-air threats due to missions such as low altitude parachute extraction, airborne assault, and air infiltration and exfiltration.

The DIRCM is designed for countermeasures against IR missiles, and is what the company calls the primary and most efficient tool available against such threats. AEL’s solution uses a fiber-optic laser, with an energy beam that inhibits IR missiles at distances far from the KC-390. The high level of integration between the DIRCM and the SPS offers an optimal solution in terms of performance, installation, and weight.

The HUD shows flight information in the pilot’s field of view during all phases of the flight. A low-visibility takeoff (LVTO) functionality will allow the KC-390 to safely operate under severe and adverse conditions. Furthermore, a color video camera installed in the flight deck will record pilot’s field-of-view overlaid with the information generated by the HUD for post-mission analysis.

In terms of other avionics, Goodrich will be supplying the electro-hydrostatic actuators, electro-backup hydrostatic actuators, actuator electronics, and electrical controls for the primary flight control system of the aircraft.

Rockwell Collins will be supplying a ruggedized version of its Pro Line Fusion integrated avionics system, which complies with the most recent Communication, Navigation, and Surveillance for Air Traffic Management (CNS/ATM) requirements, with "an advanced man-machine interface, automatic reconfiguration capability in case of damage, and high-capacity data exchange bus."

Liebherr-Aerospace has been selected for the environmental and cabin pressure control systems, which will feature an integrated control architecture and reliable, high-performance pneumatic and mechanical components. The systems will be developed and manufactured in Toulouse, France, Liebherr's center-of-excellence for air management systems.

Flight tests for the jet are scheduled to begin in 2014, and first delivery is expected for 2016. Deliveries are expected to last at least through 2030. 

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