FARNBOROUGH, England — Two years ago, Brazilian giant Embraer announced it was teaming with Boeing on a partnership for its KC-390 multirole aircraft. At the time, the announcement was heavily focused on marketing the plane around the globe.
Now, that relationship has evolved into one that executives from both companies believe will be a win-win as the KC-390 searches for its first non-Brazilian customer.
The two firms used the Farnborough International Airshow, where the KC-390 was making its first appearance, to reaffirm the relationship, with an emphasis on a support agreement that now means Boeing will handle support and maintenance for the KC-390 around the globe.
For Embraer, it means the company does not need to spend resources to create depots and figure out how to maintain the aircraft on a large scale. For Boeing, it provides an opportunity to use the existing structures and systems they have — and provides a free platform the company can glom onto at a time when it is not in line to produce any new systems.
Jackson Schneider, head of Embraer's defense unit, told Defense News that although the length of agreement is "open ended" between the two sides, he is confident it will prove beneficial for both companies.
"Through this new phase of the agreement we are extending our agreement out to the world, which means we can be together in all the markets of the world to support the client with the best of both companies," Schneider said. "We will be together showing the capabilities of the product. I am sure it will just add value for the campaign."
Ed Dolanski, who took over Boeing's Global Services & Support defense business unit four months ago, was enthusiastic when talking about the opportunities the agreement could generate, noting that the similarities between the KC-390 and Boeing's legacy C-17 could provide easy synergies in sustainment.
"We can bring the Boeing services capabilities, all of our data analytics capabilities, our logistics and supply chain footprint, meaningful investment that we've already made, and the aircraft plugs right into it. It follows in the C-17's footsteps beautifully," Dolanski said. "We're excited for that announcement, and we've directed the team that we're going to treat that aircraft just like it was a Boeing aircraft."
Dolanski added that the Embraer agreement is proof that Boeing can find ways to grow even without having to win away work from competitors. "We didn't have to go and take something from somebody. Here we had someone who as an OEM builds a wonderful airframe, so why [should Embraer] duplicate what Boeing already has?"
Asked if Boeing was pursuing similar agreements with other platform providers around the world, Dolanski said the answer was "an emphatic 'yes.' "
And while he would not say where, Boeing has struck up a number of agreements with foreign companies in recent years, including the T-X trainer tie-up with Saab and the South African Paramount Group's Mwari ISR aircraft, where Boeing's global sustainment system could tie in nicely.
Aaron Mehta was deputy editor and senior Pentagon correspondent for Defense News, covering policy, strategy and acquisition at the highest levels of the Defense Department and its international partners.