In late October, Embraer rolled its first prototype of the KC-390 military transport from its production hangar at Gaviao Peixoto, Brazil. The rollout was a first step in Embraer’s goal to perform ground tests prior to the aircraft's first flight, planned to take place by the end of this year.
Next steps following the rollout will include the aircraft undergoing initial systems evaluations leading to the first engine run, and then to ground vibration tests and other ground tests. This aircraft is the first of two prototypes that will be used in the development, ground, flight, and certification test campaigns.
The IAE turbofan-equipped KC-390 is a joint project that originated in 2009 between the Brazilian Air Force (FAB) and Embraer to develop and produce a tactical military transport and aerial refueling airplane, with both sides claiming that the new airplane offers significant advances in terms of technology and innovation.
"The KC-390 will be the backbone of the FAB's air transportation network. It will be able to operate in both the Amazon and Antarctica," said Aeronautics Commander, Lieutenant-Brigadier General Juniti Saito.
Missions for the largest aircraft manufactured in Brazil are expected to include cargo and troop transport, aerial refueling, search and rescue, and combating forest fires, among others.
In May, Embraer and the FAB signed the series production contract for the delivery of 28 KC-390 aircraft and associated initial logistic support. Besides the order by the FAB, there are currently intentions to purchase for additional 32 aircraft from other countries that include Chile, Argentina, the Czech Republic, and Portugal.
PPG Industries’ Aerospace Transparencies Group is one of the suppliers for the aircraft, designing windshields that will be the largest glass windshields PPG offers amidst the claim at being the “industry’s first” to have a compound bent shape, affording ballistics resistance and night-vision capabilities.
According to Connie Poulsen, PPG Global Director for Military Transparencies, the windshields will be about 11 ft2 to provide pilots with an expansive view. The No. 2 and No. 3 side cockpit windows also will be glass and meet requirements for ballistics resistance and night-vision compatibility.
PPG designed and will produce the heated glass windshields and side cockpit windows at its Huntsville, AL, facility, while the fuselage windows are designed of stretched acrylic and will be manufactured at its Sylmar, CA, location.
Other suppliers include Honeywell Aerospace, which provided the KC-390 with its eNfusion AMT-3800 Inmarsat high-gain antenna system, with voice and data communications capabilities using the Inmarsat network to deliver data link features for communication, navigation, and surveillance, as well as air traffic management.
BAE Systems supplied fifth-generation active side sticks as part of the overall cockpit controls. The side sticks include an electrical linkage between the pilot and co-pilot and changes in the force-feel characteristics depending on the flight modes and condition of the aircraft.
Eaton designed and developed fuel system components for the aircraft, as well as its onboard inert gas generating system, while the KC-390 served as the first military application of Rockwell Collins’ Pro Line Fusion integrated avionics system, which entered the business jet segment in 2012.
Rockwell Collins established a program management and engineering team in Brazil fully dedicated to the KC-390. The team is co-located at Rockwell Collins do Brasil and Embraer facilities in São José dos Campos and Gaviao Peixoto. Rockwell Collins do Brasil has increased its employment in Brazil by 50% over the past three years, with plans to continue steady investment and growth as it adds new in-country programs.
Boeing has also been part of the KC-390 team over the past year and a half or so, partnering with Embraer on the sales and marketing of the aircraft and "sharing some specific technical knowledge." According to Boeing, initial estimates of the potential market for the KC-390 are about 700 aircraft, though that number is likely to increase as other markets are analyzed.