On 19 April 2007 Embraer confirmed, at a press conference held during Latin America Aero & Defense (LAAD), in Rio de Janeiro, that it has been studying the possible development of a military transport aircraft. If it is actually launched, the EMBRAER C-390, as it is called, will be the heaviest airplane ever produced by the Company and will be able to transport up to 19 tons (41,888 pounds) of cargo.
The new project will incorporate a number of technological solutions developed for the successful EMBRAER 190 commercial jet. The C-390 has "good commonality" with the 190 to reduce risk and costs. The C-390 uses systems and technologies from the Embraer 190 small airliner, including the wing, empennage, fly-by-wire flight controls and flightdeck. Moving the E-190 wing to the top of fuselage and mounting the high-flotation main landing gear in large fuselage sponsons will free up space in the wing for more fuel, says Silva. The fuselage will be all-new, with a similar cross-section and cargo box to the basic C-130J, and studies are under way on whether it will be metal or composite. Engines will be in the same class as the E-190/195's General Electric CF34-10Es. Other contenders include the Pratt & Whitney PW6000 and Rolls-Royce BR715.
The four-turboprop C-130J sells for $60-70 million, while the smaller, 11.5t-payload twin-turboprop Alenia C-27J costs around $35 million. The C-390 will be faster, with a maximum cruise speed of Mach 0.8/460kt (850km/h), but will be able to operate from the same types and lengths of runways as the C-130.
With a projected price of around $50 million, the C-390 is a high-wing, twin-turbofan airlifter with rear loading ramp, 19t (41,900lb) maximum payload and maximum range exceeding 5,900km (3,200nm). "It will directly compete with the C-130J," says Paulo Gastão Silva, strategic planning senior manager, defence market. The aircraft is aimed at replacing older Lockheed Martin C-130 airlifters now in widespread service and the manufacturer sees a potential market for 695 C-390s over the next 10 years.
Sized between Alenia's C-27J Spartan and the ubiquitous Lockheed Martin C-130 Hercules, the C-390 would be able to carry 84 troops, 64 paratroops or up to 19 tons of cargo, including wheeled armored fighting vehicles (AFVs). Potential powerplant options that have been studied in the 17,000- to 22,000-pound-thrust range include the Pratt &Whitney PW6000 and the Rolls-Royce BR715.
As a medium-sized military transport jet, the EMBRAER C-390 will have an ample cabin, equipped with a rear ramp for transporting a wide range of types of cargo, including wheeled armored vehicles, and will have the most modern loading and unloading systems. The new jet may be refueled in flight, as well as be used to refuel other aircraft, in flight and on the ground. The cargo cabin will allow configurations for transporting the wounded or sick, on Medical Evacuation (MEDEVAC) missions. The technical advances of the EMBRAER C-390 include fly-by-wire, which lowers the work load of pilots, with the resulting increased safety, and operating on short and unpaved runways, without the need of ground support.
"Our analyses indicate that there is a potential market for this type of aircraft worldwide, especially to substitute older models that will reach the end of their useful life over the coming decade," said Luiz Carlos Aguiar, Embraer's Executive Vice-President, Defense and Government Market. "We are now expanding the studies and looking for the best use of the technological solutions employed in the EMBRAER 170/190 family. They will be carefully adapted to the specific needs of the military operators. This is a good example of spin-off and how Embraer's long-term vision is focused on customer satisfaction." Aguiar added, "Based on Embraer's broad experience in leading successful programs, we have discussed with other specialized mainline companies jointly sharing the development, which should follow international best practices for defense programs."
Sources say developing the C-390 would require an investment of around $500 million. Development is planned to take four years from launch to first delivery, which could be in early 2012 "or possibly 2011", says Silva. The basic aircraft will be certificated to civil FAR Part 25 standards and specific military capabilities qualified by national military authorities.
In January 2008 it was reported that State-owned defence industrial group DENEL CEO Shaun Liebenberg was engaged in discussions with Brazilian aircraft manufacturer Embraer for risk-sharing partnership in EMBRAER's new military transport aircraft project, the C-390. The discussions involve the DENEL group, DENEL's subsidiary company, DENEL SAAB Aerostructures and the Swedish SAAB group. (DENEl SAAB Aerostructures is currently 80% owned by DENEL with the remaining 20% held by SAAB.) These three companies are acting as a team in the discussions with the Brazilian group.
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