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IDEX 2017: Embraer sees opportunities for KC-390 in Middle East

21 February 2017
Skydivers jump from the rear ramp of a KC-390 during testing. Source: Embraer Defense & Security

Embraer Defense and Security anticipates "potential in many countries" in the Middle East for its KC-390 transport aircraft, the company's CEO Jackson Schneider told Jane's at the 2017 IDEX exhibition held in Abu Dhabi.

The aircraft visited the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to demonstrate its capabilities in mid-2016. "We did some very structured tests in the most severe temperatures of the year and the plane performed very well," Schneider said.

The aircraft is planned to return to the Middle East later this year after it attends the Paris Air Show in June, although Schneider said it has yet to be confirmed which countries it would visit.

He dismissed concerns about the suitability of a jet aircraft for the medium-transport role in the Middle East, saying it would have no problem using unpaved runways in hot and dusty environments.

"I know there are a lot of rumours coming from the competitors saying because this is a jet it cannot be used on non-paved runways. Actually, it is exactly the contrary: we designed the plane to be used on non-paved runways in the Amazon forest," he said.

Schneider added that its ability to use unpaved runways could be demonstrated easily, although he said this aspect has yet to be tested. "The unpaved runway tests will begin this year, [in the] second semester," he said.

He stressed that the low costs of acquiring, operating, and maintaining the aircraft, as well as its speed and flexibility, make it an attractive option. It can carry 26 tonnes and there is space for a BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicle, two Oshkosh M-ATV armoured vehicles, or a Black Hawk helicopter.

The flexibility comes from its interchangeable pallet system that enables it to be converted for different missions. Jackson said this made it ideal for supporting special forces operations as it can be set up to carry a mix of troops and cargo.

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