FARNBOROUGH, England — In the wake of a major tie-up between Boeing and Embraer, the Brazilian company is looking to grow two areas: its special mission aircraft and the KC-390 transport, with an agreement to be finalized on the latter by the end of the year.

In an interview while at the Farnborough International Airshow, Jackson Schneider, president and CEO of Embraer Defense & Security, told Defense News he is “pretty much focused on” those two areas as cooperative programs with the American defense giant.

“These two ones in the beginning, other ones can come, but these are our main focus,” Schneider said, adding that there have been no discussions about working together on unmanned systems, a technology both companies produce.

The KC-390 is the “most important” project for Embraer, he said. The plane is to be inducted into the Brazilian military later this year, marking the first time the platform will become used in active operations.

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Embraer’s hope for years has been that once the plane is in use, other countries will see it as a proven asset and begin investing. But having Boeing’s marketing arm behind the system opens up opportunities that may otherwise have been closed, with Schneider acknowledging “the Boeing presence in the market is very complementary of what we have. It will enlarge significantly our opportunities in terms of sales.”

Analysts have questioned if Boeing will seek equity in the KC-390, where the two companies would divide the costs and the profits of each plane sold. Schneider said no decision on such an arrangement have been made.

Major discussions on the KC-390 tie-up will begin next week, he added, with the goal of having things finalized before the end of the year.

Earlier in the week, Greg Smith, Boeing’s chief financial officer and executive vice president for enterprise performance and strategy, told reporters the company is still “working through final details of” the agreement but did not rule out a financial stake in each plane.

Smith also noted that the two companies are going to partner together to “sell that aircraft globally,” perhaps a sign the KC-390 agreement will be more robust than just marketing.

Special mission aircraft

One of the few gaps in Boeing’s portfolio has been the lack of small business-jet solutions for airspace management missions, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. That was evident in recent competitions, such as the U.S. JSTARS battle, where competitors all offered smaller jet bodies and Boeing would offer larger passenger-jet sized alternatives.

In contrast, Embraer has for several years marketed its ERJ145 aircraft for ISR or airborne early warning and control missions. And that experience creates the second leg in Schenider’s Boeing team-up plan.

“I think that we have very interesting applications in terms of business jets, very creative,” he said. “We have already had some solutions that could go to market for training, for medical evacuation, for airport inspections, but there are many other opportunities, alternatives that we can explore together, also in this joint venture.”

Schneider said discussions with Boeing on a special mission aircraft are behind in comparison to the KC-390. Asked how quickly he believed something could get done and a system brought to market, Schneider was realistic.

“To define the possibility is quick. To develop, to introduce it to market, depends on what you are talking with the potential clients. Also, the design of the solution can be more or less sophisticated, [impacting] time frame to market solution and price," he said.

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.

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