Embraer’s KC-390 tanker/transport is due to carry out a wet air-to-air refuelling test in the latter half of 2017, as the company strives to maintain the testing schedule that it has set out in order to deliver the first serial production aircraft in 2018.
The company claims that all testing is being carried out to plan, with two test aircraft having now conducted just short of 1,000 flight hours between them. The second test aircraft rolled out last year, and the two aircraft are undergoing daily flight testing.
“We have achieved all targets so far within the specifications, and in some cases gone beyond those specifications,” Jackson Schneider, Embraer Defense and Security CEO, told media at the LAAD exhibition. “We have gone through several levels of certification, testing in different geographical conditions.”
In February, the KC-390 made the first dry contact with a Northrop F-5, which will be followed by a wet air-to-air refuelling contact test in the latter half of 2017.
The Brazilian Air Force is also expected to conduct helicopter refuelling testing with the KC-390, and stability testing in preparation for this was carried out in 2016 that mitigated risks associated with carrying out this mission.
“We will only be sure when the helicopter has its part, but the indicators are positive,” Paulo Gastao Silva, programme lead at Embraer told media at the LAAD exhibition in Rio.
In addition to the flight testing, complete structure testing is currently underway: “In the middle of the year we will conclude this test phase, and then we will move onto fatigue testing,” Silva said. “This will all add information for the development of specifications for certification.”
A crosswind test campaign has also been carried out, which saw the aircraft travel to Argentina and Chile in order to fly in high winds. More high wind testing is expected to follow in order to qualify the aircraft for operations in this environment, and ice testing will also follow.
“We are still on plan and we continue to be able to work to the needs of the operators,” Silva said.
In parallel, the company is producing the first two serial-produced variants of the aircraft, which are in varying stages of production and will be delivered next year. There are 28 serial-produced aircraft on order for Brazil, which will be followed by delivery of the two prototypes at the end of the production cycle.
The structural panels of the second serial-produced have been produced, and assembly of this will be carried out when the first aircraft is complete.
Silva stressed the appeal of the multi-role capability of the aircraft and its ability to operate in a range of different environments including desert and jungle, plus a variety of landing strips.
He added that the engine is performing as planned, and the availability of the aircraft has been a promising feature of the aircraft: “It will certainly have the lowest cost and greatest availability. It is amazing the level of availability that we’ve had with the KC-390.”
In addition the order from Brazil, Embraer has received letters of intent from five other potential customers.
The industrial partners that the programme has, which includes Argentina, the Czech Republic, and Portugal, could all be potential markets for the transport.