SAN JOSE DOS CAMPOS, Brazil — Embraer expects to complete the critical design review of its KC-390 transport plane by next week, according to a top program official.
The completion of the review is a major step toward “the point it becomes a real airplane,” Paulo Gastao Silva, Embraer’s program vice president, told reporters visiting Embraer’s facilities here. Embraer funded the trip.
Silva added that the company is committed to launching the first flight of the plane in the second half of 2014, with the first planes delivered in late 2015 or early 2016.
The news comes roughly a month before the LAAD defense expo in Rio de Janeiro, the largest in the region.
Costs for the new plane are “on track,” Silva said, with development costs slightly falling. However, Silva declined to provide a unit cost for the plane. He estimated that the Brazilian government will have invested $2.3 billion to $2.4 billion in development and preparation costs by the time the plane is in production.
Although the KC-390 is designed as a transport plane, Silva emphasized its “multirole” capabilities. During his presentation, he highlighted both firefighting and search-and-rescue roles, which are enhanced by the inclusion of an EO/IR pod on the plane.
The plane can transport 80 Brazilian troops, or 64 paratroopers; cargo-wise, it can carry seven 108- by 88-inch pallets. The plane also comes equipped with refueling capabilities and carries enough fuel to resupply four Boeing F-18s, five Dassault Rafales or eight Saab Gripen fighters, according to Silva.
Silva acknowledged that the main competition for the cargo plane would be Lockheed Martin’s C-130J design. While he stressed that the plane was designed for Brazilian needs, not to compete with the C-130 directly, Silva did say a market analysis conducted by the company estimates the potential market for the KC-390 at around 700 planes.