SAO JOSE DOS CAMPOS, Brazil, Feb. 4 (UPI)
Brazilian defense manufacturer Embraer has added more international partners to its program for marketing KC-390, said to be a cheaper alternative to Lockheed Martin's C-130J.
The C-130J updates the internationally renowned tactical transport workhorse C-130 Hercules, the four-engine turboprop military transport aircraft that was originally designed and built by Lockheed, precursor to Lockheed Martin.
The fast-aging C-130, modified in more than 40 versions since it first flew in the 1950s, is still used by more than 60 nations worldwide but the tactical air transport market has expanded with the entry of rivals. The Hercules family still claims the longest continuous production run of any military aircraft in history.
Embraer says it can compete against most rivals including Lockheed Martin's C-130J. The Brazilian planemaker has been recruiting international partners as part of a strategy to boost the competitive edge for its contender KC-390.
The old C-130 beat off competition from Boeing B-52 Stratofortress, Soviet/Russian Tupolev Tu-95 and Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker. Lockheed Martin's updated C-130J Super Hercules can perform in-flight refueling, air-to-refueling and tanking. Embraer says it hopes to give its KC-390 all those features plus more.
Embraer says its aircraft will command a lift of 23 tons against 20 tons for most competitors, which include the larger Airbus A400M, Russia's AN-12, Chinese prototype Yun-8/9 and smaller aircraft that represent indirect competition.
Embraer is extending its efforts and markets by crafting a jet-powered medium transport with a cargo capacity of around 23 tons, that can be refueled in the air, and can provide refueling services to other aircraft by adding dedicated pods, the Defense Industry Daily said on its website.
"The KC-390 has now become a multinational effort, and may be shaping up as the C-130′s most formidable future competitor," Defense Industry Daily said.
"A potential tie-up with Boeing just underscored the seriousness of Embraer's effort."
The Boeing Co. and Embraer announced in June last year an agreement to collaborate on the KC-390 aircraft program.
The two companies agreed to share specific technical knowledge and evaluate markets where they may join their sales efforts for medium-lift military transport opportunities.
Boeing says it can bring to Embraer its experience in military transport and air refueling aircraft, as well as knowledge of potential markets for the KC-390.
Luiz Carlos Aguiar, president and chief executive officer of Embraer Defesa e Seguranca, says the agreement will strengthen the "KC-390's prominent position in the global military transport market."
Embraer says global demand for tactical transport aircraft that can replace the C-130 and other transport planes exceeds 700 aircraft.
In 2011 Embraer signed a contract with DRS Defense Solutions for designing, developing, testing and producing the KC-390 cargo handling and aerial delivery system. The work will be performed by DRS Training and Control Systems in Fort Walton Beach, Fla.
Some of the transport plane's structural parts will come from Portuguese companies after an agreement signed by Embraer and OGMA, or Industria Aeronautica de Portugal, and Empresa de Engenharia Aeronautica.
A declaration of intent between the Brazilian and Portuguese ministries of defense, signed in September 2010, preceded the contract, which emphasizes Portugal's commitment to purchasing KC-390 airplanes.
The Brazilian company AEL Sistemas, based in Porto Alegre, is another partner supplying components for the KC-390.
"The KC-390 is being designed to operate all over the world, in different scenarios, with the same outstanding performance," Embraer's Eduardo Bonini Santos Pinto said.