Embraer has received a timely boost for the KC-390 as it starts approaching foreign governments to establish partnerships that are tied to work sharing and orders for the jet-powered airlifter and tanker.
Brazilian air force chief Lieutenant General Junito Saito signed a letter of intent to buy an initial batch of 28 KC-390s after 2016. A contract for an undisclosed sum is likely to be signed within two years, says Embraer president and chief executive Frederico Fleury Curado.
Meanwhile, Embraer has completed a preliminary design review process and added about 4.6t to the maximum payload, says Orlando Ferreira Neto, executive vice president for Embraer's defence market.
With a full load of 23.6t, the KC-390 should be able to fly about 1,400nm (2,590km).
The company now enters a roughly nine-month "initial definition phase" where it hopes to select major industrial and government partners for the KC-390.
Foremost among the decisions to be made in the next several months will be on the supplier for the 27,000-29,000lb-thrust (120-129kN) power plants.
The new letter of intent comes about 15 months after Embraer formally launched the KC-390 programme. The Brazilian air force kicked off the programme by funding development, tooling and the construction of two prototypes.
Embraer plans to launch full-scale production in 2016, expecting an annual production rate of 18-20 aircraft per year, with the Brazilian air force's initial batch of 28 delivered in three or four years, Curado says.