Embraer prepares for launch of new-look C-390 transport

Washington DC
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Embraer is preparing a response to a new Brazilian air force tender for its proposed C-390 transport, and says a contract to launch development is "expected to be signed soon".

Meanwhile, new images contained in a financial presentation prepared by Embraer reveal that the C-390 design has undergone radical changes in recent months, following a "comprehensive review" conducted earlier this year involving the company, the Brazilian air force and "other selected potential customers".

Previously released images of the aircraft (below) showed it to be a high-winged version of the E-190 regional jet, with a prime objective of keeping development costs for an all-new military transport minimal.

 c-390 embraer
© Embraer

The new pictures, however, show that Embraer has abandoned the E-190's conventional vertical stabiliser in favour of a T-tail (below), rendering the development project more complex. They also show newly added aft-fuselage strakes and wing-mounted hose-and-drogue refuelling pods, with the latter implying that the aircraft could also deliver a secondary function as a tanker for types including Brazil's AMX strike aircraft.

© Embraer

The Embraer presentation explains that "some aircraft characteristics were reviewed to better fit such requirements, and an even more competitive configuration was defined".

Embraer now says that major selections of potential partners and suppliers are planned to take place in 2009, although South Africa's Denel has already agreed to become a risk-sharing partner on the C-390 project. The company earlier this year voiced its willingness to participate in the Brazilian transport, drawing lessons from its role in providing composite structures for the larger Airbus Military A400M.

Embraer claims "global market prospects remain very attractive" for its new tactical transport design. It had mentioned Brazil's postal service last year as a potential launch customer, but that appears to have been supplanted by the air force interest. A company source declines to elaborate on the presentation, or to name other potential buyers for the new type.

The C-390 is proposed as a twinjet replacement for thousands of ageing Lockheed Martin C-130s. Embraer has identified a market for Hercules operators that do not require turboprop engines and austere landing capability, but need a fast military or government transport.