Embraer has tweaked its KC-390 by announcing a seal with L3 Harris to develop an aerial tanker. They are calling it “Agile Tanker” and the idea is to offer this solution to the USAF as a tactical refueler. The companies signed an agreement to expand the capabilities of Embraer’s KC-390 Millennium tactical tanker aircraft. Enhancements include the addition of advanced boom operations and mission systems to support agile basing and sustainment for operations in contested areas, and resilient communications supporting JADC2 requirements.
The joint PR states: “U.S. Air Force strategic planners have stated agile combat employment will require refueling platforms optimized to support a disaggregated approach to air dominance in contested logistics environments,” said Christopher E. Kubasik, Chair and Chief Executive Officer, L3Harris. “Collaborating with Embraer to develop and integrate new capabilities to the multi-mission KC-390 provides a cost-effective, fast-to-field solution that embodies our trusted disruptor approach.”
Aircraft enhancements will complement the tanker’s existing capabilities, which already include the ability to refuel aircraft with a variable speed drogue, receive fuel, and to take off and land from short and improvised runways, allowing for greater mission area coverage.
“We continue seeking meaningful and strategic partnerships that generate new developments and expand the KC-390 Millennium’s market reach,” said Francisco Gomes Neto, President and CEO of Embraer. “Our aircraft is capturing the attention of Air Forces around the world, and we’re thrilled by this opportunity to combine Embraer’s state-of-the-art platform and systems with L3Harris’ mission-driven solutions to deliver on the U.S. Air Force’s operational imperatives.”
The Air Force operational imperatives are a roadmap for successfully bringing about the new technologies, thinking, and cultures the Air and Space Forces must have to deter and, if necessary, defeat modern day adversaries.
The speedy, versatile, customizable KC-390 Millennium can support a range of missions and possesses a high-reliability rate. By combining L3Harris’ experience as an aircraft missionization prime with Embraer’s state-of-the-art jet-powered KC-390 Millennium platform, both companies are ready to provide the next generation of tanker solutions for the Department of Defense and the US Air Force.
To support the Buy American Act requirements, the parties are studying the Agile Tanker program production with final assembly in the U.S., followed by aircraft modernization and missionization at the L3Harris’ Waco, Texas, aircraft modification center.”
Some interesting points:
- Embraer means to market their KC-390 in the US
- The Brazilian Air Force cutback makes the OEM hungry
- L3 Harris is a good firm to partner with
- The KC-390 already is an in-air refueler
- The KC-390 continues to be an alternative to the C-130 and appears to offer an equally flexible platform for several missions (a firefighter)
- Embraer has plants making their business jets and Tucano in Florida, so they offer a compelling argument to meet the Buy American Act
Co-Founder AirInsight. My previous life includes stints at Shell South Africa, CIC Research, and PA Consulting. Got bitten by the aviation bug and ended up an Avgeek. Then the data bug got me, making me a curious Avgeek seeking data-driven logic. Also, I appreciate conversations with smart people from whom I learn so much. Summary: I am very fortunate to work with and converse with great people.