Inside the KC-390
By Roberto Caiafa/Diálogo May 11, 2017The KC-390, the result of an order placed by the Brazilian Air Force with demanding requirements, is an aircraft with a robust airframe, equipped with high wings fixed with engines positioned to avoid debris intake, a T-shaped tail with an automated loading ramp, main landing gear stowed within large aerodynamic structures with tailor-made doors, lateral doors for parachute launching equipped with special aerodynamic deflectors, a wide nose (housing a modern radar), and dual wheel landing gear. Designed to transport up to 26 tons, the KC-390 achieves that performance thanks to a pair of V-2500 engines – the same type used in various commercial jets. An added bonus to this popular propulsion model engine is its wide offering of parts and services, in addition to the ease of maintenance. “The modern and spacious cockpit has large windows that afford the crew great situational awareness,” stated Valtécio Alencar, Communications executive at Embraer Defense & Security (EDS, as per its Portuguese acronym). Alencar was in charge of presenting the aircraft at LAAD Defence and Security 2017. “The instrumentation panel, which is dominated by large colored screens, uses Pro Line Fusion digital avionics technology. The fly-by-wire flight controls are sidestick, with advanced ergonomics and a lot of comfort for the crew who have air conditioning and electronically controlled seats,” he explained. The cargo compartment, which is the plane’s reason for being, is very well equipped. Its multipurpose deck uses the concepts of turning, opening, clicking, locking, closing, attaching, and anchoring, all taken to their maximum potential. To change from a flat cargo floor to roller configuration, all that is needed is to turn the guides and the conversion is done. The same thing is done to air drop cargo on pallets: open, lock, and leave the guides in position, and the pallets slide out of the plane. To anchor loads and keep them stable, there are various kinds of anchorage points and straps for vehicles, pallets, or bundles. To drop paratroopers from the plane, there are anchoring cables with parachute hooks, signal lights, and other equipment. The lateral doors allow for safe jumping, free from buffeting winds. The effect is achieved through the use of aerodynamic deflectors that are attached to the fuselage when they are not in use. The Cargo Handling System is used to maintain, monitor, and execute precision air drops of cargo, vehicles, and troops through a variety of tactical methods. This includes a station for the loadmaster, a network of lock control units and control panels for detecting, measuring force, activating, and releasing locks. Thus, service members have at their disposal a set of modern engineering tools and the fuselage measurements (length x width x height) to facilitate the shipment of any number of cargo configurations, pallets, containers, vehicles, specialized vehicles, armored vehicles, engineering equipment, and much more. Additionally, and to expand its operational reach, the KC-390 has a probe for in-flight refueling. That way, it can take on fuel from another aircraft with the same capabilities, vastly extending its autonomy and operational radius. New KC-390 tests Soon, the KC-390 must undergo tests transporting Guarani VBTP-MR 6x6 armored vehicles. This is a longstanding requirement put in place by the Paratrooper Infantry Brigade and by the Rapid Response Forces, both professional troops in the Brazilian Army. Armored vehicles in their standard configuration, as well as versions equipped with REMAX, REMAN, and UT-30BR weapons turrets will be used in the testing. The armored version with the TORC30 turret (30 mm cannon) must undergo the same tests as soon as it is integrated with the Guarani armored vehicle and is available. These tests aim to remove any doubts about the plane’s capacity to provide the Paratrooper Infantry Brigade with the immediate transport of combat-ready armored vehicles without the need for any kind of procedure to mount or dismount turrets or weapons stations. In practice, these tests will prove that there are proper communication and information sharing among the managers of the strategic projects vital to the two Brazilian Armed Forces. According to Major General Edson Henrique Ramires, the project manager for the VBTP-MR 6x6, “the Guarani is key to ensuring the mobility and shock power of the Brazilian Expeditionary Forces, and the KC-390 is the ‘silver bullet’ in this strategy, as it delivers armored vehicles, supplies, munitions, troops, and other equipment to the field directly on unfinished runways in just a few hours.” To survive on the front lines in this dangerous environment, the aircraft is equipped with an advanced defensive suite consisting of warning sensors for missile approach, pyrotechnic launchers, and a directional infrared countermeasure system capable of interfering with the guidance head on heat-seeking missiles. This model also employs enhanced vision sensors in bad weather, where the image is projected on large screens installed at eye level in the cockpit. The functionality to land in poor visibility allows the KC-390 to operate safely in adverse weather conditions. A colored camera installed in the cockpit will record the scene of the pilot superimposed over the data generated by the sensor system, in order to analyze the missions. “The KC-390 plane was created to furnish mobility and robustness to the Brazilian Armed Forces, containing the highest level of technology added to the product. This project was guided by high operational flexibility, and by the ease of maintenance throughout the useful life cycle of this model, even in terms of the cost per flight hour. Progress in these tests and the next stages of development will serve to cap off the expectations that have been placed on this product,” said Paulo Gastão, the KC-390 project manager for EDS.