Future FAB Freighter Performs First IFR Procedure with Fighter Jets
(Source: Brazilian Air Force; issued Feb 21, 2017)
(Source: Issued in Portuguese only; unofficial translation by Defense-Aerospace.com)
In-flight refueling trials of the Embraer KC-390 transport / tanker aircraft seen from the cockpit of an F-5M fighter, whose fixed probe is engaged in the basket reeled out from the tanker’s Wing Air Refueling Pod. (FAB photo)
The first in-flight refueling mission of the future Brazilian Air Force (FAB) freighter, the KC-390, was successfully completed. From February 1 to Feb 22, FAB’s military personnel and Embraer professionals worked together on yet another flight test campaign, this time to test the Wing Air Refueling Pod (WARP). The device is located under the wings of the freighter, and operates refueling hose, which is 30 meters long. Air force F-5M fighters were used as receivers.

This time, although the contact was dry -- that is, no fuel was transferred -- all other procedures involved in the In-Flight Refueling were carried out. Raphael Leme, leader of the KC-390 in-flight test engineering, says this is an important test, as the aircraft is the first tanker ever produced by Embraer. "We are working with the novelty factor," he says. He further explains that the main thing to be tested is the ability of the WARP software to strain the hose: it cannot form waves, nor can it be called 'dead hose,' when there is no lift.

Another challenge faced in this test is that, when there are two aircraft in contact, it is necessary to find common parameters for the correct flight profile. In the tests, flights are carried out throughout the so-called 'envelope' of the aircraft, i.e. within the most critical conditions of the airplane in terms of minimum and maximum speed and altitude.

"Since the F-5M and KC-390 have different envelopes, it is necessary to find a third envelope, at the intersection of the between the two aircraft, to carry out refueling," explains Lieutenant-Colonel Fernando Benitez Leal, technical manager of the air force’s KC-X program.

Major Kildary Sena, a test pilot who flew an F-5M during one of the refueling tests, explains some specificities of the new aircraft, such as the ability to refuel, to be refueled and also to refuel helicopters. "Other aspects that make a difference are the fly-by-wire system and the turbofan engine - like those used in commercial aviation," he says. They make the plane more stable and the air comes out less turbulent for the aircraft behind, albeit at a higher speed.

Next steps

The KC-390 test campaign's end schedule will run until the end of 2018. Currently, there are two prototypes performing in-flight testing in parallel, and a third is in the finalization phase.

In all, there will be more than 2,000 flight hours for the development and certification tests.

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First Airborne Contact for KC-390 Wing Air Refuelling Pods
(Source: Cobham plc; issued Feb 22, 2017)
Cobham's 912E Wing Air Refuelling Pods have successfully completed the first airborne connection between Embraer's KC-390 multi-mission medium transport aircraft and a fighter aircraft.

Operating from Santa Cruz Air Force Base in Brazil on 19th February, the KC-390 made a series of contacts with a Brazilian Air Force F5 fighter jet at high altitude, marking a significant milestone for the aircrafts aerial refuelling programme.

The 912E pod is a bespoke design solution utilising the latest technology for the KC-390 to meet the aircrafts high performance criteria including its ability to satisfy a wide number of receivers at extended ranges. The Brazilian Air Force is the launch customer for the aircraft which is scheduled to enter service in 2018.

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