The new backbone of Brazilian Air Force’s transport aviation will begin to take shape next year, when the 11th Wing, based in Rio de Janeiro (RJ), will receive the first two KC-390 aircraft, the largest military aircraft ever developed and manufactured in Brazil.
As two prototypes advance through the flight testing campaign, the first production aircraft is already being assembled at the Embraer facility in Gavião Peixoto, Sao Paolo state.
"It is a very important project, and it is in the final stages of development. We need to already have the aircraft operating in our units from the middle of next year," says the Air Force Commander, Lt. Gen. Nivaldo Luiz Rossato.
The 28 aircraft on order will replace the C-130 Hercules fleet operated by the FAB since 1964. The new aircraft will perform missions such as operations on small runways in the Amazon, dropping paratroopers, in-flight refueling, landing in Antarctica and air-dropping cargo in flight, among others.
The cargo compartment of the KC-390 is 18.54 meters long, 3.45 wide and 2.95 high. Larger than a volleyball court (18.00 meters in length), the space is sufficient to accommodate large equipment, as well as armored vehicles, artillery pieces, armaments and even partly-disattached aircraft. The Guarani armor, for example, fits inside the cargo compartment of the KC-390.
Also, 80 equipped soldiers or 64 paratroopers may be taken in a troop transport configuration or 74 stretchers plus a medical staff in an aero-medical evacuation configuration. The maximum weight for loads is 23 tons and there is also the possibility of carrying 26 tons if the weight is concentrated in the center of gravity of the aircraft.
With 23 tonnes of cargo on board, the KC-390 can fly up to 2,730 km away. If the load is 14 tons, the range goes up to 4,914 km, enough to leave Manaus (AM) and go to Mexico City or Santiago, Chile. Without cargo, in a transfer flight, it is possible to travel up to 5,958 km away.
These numbers are achieved because the aircraft tanks can carry 23.2 tons of fuel, and the airplane can also be refueled in flight. The KC-390 also has the necessary equipment to transfer part of the fuel to other airplanes and helicopters, and can perform two in-flight refueling operations at the same time. A KC-390 can also refuel another KC-390, extending the range of the second. Other "customers" should be the F-39 Gripen NG, F-5EM and A-1M fighters.
Autonomy can also be used for search missions, with flight hours dedicated to the location of a shipwreck, for example. For this mission, in addition to counting observation stations, the KC-390 is equipped with the Gabbiano T20 radar. In target tracking mode, the device can track more than 200 vessels simultaneously and can also be used to combat illegal activities such as predatory fishing and piracy. You can also use radar to identify oil spots or map land areas.
"The KC-390 will be the backbone of the Brazilian Air Force's transport aviation. From the Amazon to the Antarctic, the fleet of 28 aircraft will play a fundamental role for the most diverse projects of the Brazilian state, from scientific research to the maintenance of sovereignty." Explains the Commander of the Air Force. "The importance of the KC-390 is explained not only by the ability to export and generate wealth, but the creation of 8,500 jobs," says Lieutenant-Gen. Rossato.