By Stephanie Foden, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – A new military cargo plane is going to make Brazil a contender on the world stage of military planemakers. Brazil’s Embraer S.A., an aircraft manufacturing company, is promising a jet that flies higher, fuller and faster, all while at a lower price than United States-based Lockheed Martin Corp’s esteemed Hercules airlifter.

Brazil Builds US$2 Billion Aircraft, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News
Digital image of Embraer’s KC-390, photo by Embraer.

“I don’t think the Hercules has ever faced such serious competition – and it’s the oldest aircraft in production,” Richard Aboulafia, an aviation consultant with the Teal Group told Reuters.

The Brazilian government is investing US$2 billion into the development of the aircraft powerhouse’s KC-390, which will be used to transport troops, supplies and also be a tanker aircraft in flight. Brazil will buy 28 aircrafts in a contract that must be signed within the next six months.

Colonel Sérgio Carneiro, who oversees the program for the Brazilian Air Force, said the country would likely save money on the new planes compared to the lifetime cost of the Super Hercules or ongoing maintenance of its existing Hercules fleet of 22 aircrafts.

“There are people who keep riding around in antique cars – they are very wealthy people,” Carneiro said in an interview at the Air Force headquarters in Brasília. “We are not a wealthy country. If only for that reason, we need a more modern plane.”

Embraer executives project that the cargo plane will be used by the Brazilian Air Force to land on improvised runways from the Amazon to Antarctica. After decades of staying under the radar and fixing up old military gear, Embraer is expanding its defense industry production, with upgraded fighter jets, jungle radar system and even a geostationary defense satellite.

If the aircraft is launched by the end of next year as planned, is will surpass projects launched in the past few years out of Russia, India and China. KC-390 will be the biggest plane ever made in South America, with a belly big enough to fit a Blackhawk helicopter.

Read more (in Portuguese).

* The Rio Times Daily Updates feature is offered to help keep you up-to-date with important news as it happens.


  1. I am a huge fan of Embraer. My wife worked for them as an engineer developing the ERJ 190, and I love flying in their aircraft.

    The problem is that This market is pretty saturated. The C-130 is not just used for cargo. It is also the preferred aircraft for delivering paratroopers. The US Air Force also has the C-17, which is bigger, faster, and can take off from and land on any runway a C-130 can. It can also fly slow enough to allow paratroopers to deploy.

    Neither US planes are probably cheaper though. I am betting Embraer can underbid the US contractors, but countries will have to take a chance with a new, unproved aircraft.

    I wish them the best of luck, but can think of way better ways to spend that money. Traffic law enforcement comes to mind…

  2. This article doesn’t quote any specs. I’ve flown in the C-130. It can carry a Blackhawk helicopter, it’s crew and its maintenance personnel plus supplies.

    Both the C-130 and C-17 also have provisions for fast=-dropping supplies and can be equipped with JATO packs to allow them to takeoff from extremely short runway when fully-laden.

    I would say that road improvements would also be an excellent way to spend this money. Brazil needs to build better roads. The idea of making a 3 inch roadbed, 2 inches of concrete and then 2 inches of asphalt into a roadway meant to carry huge trucks and double-length buses is ludicrous.


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