After issuing a request for proposals in September, the Brazilian air force's KC-X tanker/transport procurement has taken an unexpected turn. Despite having initially forecast the participation of at least three bidders, sources in Brasilia indicate that Airbus Military's A330 multi-role tanker/transport might be selected before the end of the year.

Launched earlier in the decade to replace the air force's four Boeing KC-137 (707) tanker/transports, the use of which has been hampered by low availability rates over the last few years, the KC-X programme was fast-tracked early this year.

A330 MRTT - Airbus Military
 © Airbus Military

Problems with the service's sole long-range air transport assets were highlighted by its provision of only a small number of relief flights following the earthquake in Haiti early this year. Its KC-137s were then unable to take part in the 23-day Cruzex V exercise that was conducted during November.

However, it was the type's role as a long-range presidential transport that spurred the government to seek a quick replacement. Brazil purchased one Airbus A319CJ in 2005, but this is unable to satisfy seating and range requirements for longer presidential trips.

With an immediate requirement for two tanker/transports and an option for a third, Brazil's KC-X programme calls for one aircraft to be reconfigurable for presidential transport duties.

The air force originally expected Airbus to tender a proposal based on its A330-200-based MRTT design, with Boeing and Israel Aerospace Industries - the latter teamed with Brazil's VEM - to submit offers based on modified 767s. However, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has indicated that a selection will be finalised later this month.

Title page image © Airbus Military

Source: Flight International