U.S.-based Boeing Co and Brazil’s Embraer said on Tuesday they would collaborate on some aspects of developing Embraer’s KC-390 military transport and refueling jet, tightening relations between the two countries’ defense industries.
The companies will share expertise and study possibilities for joint sales, the heads of their defense units told reporters in Sao Paulo. Boeing defense chief Dennis Muilenburg said the KC-390 complemented the U.S. manufacturer’s lineup of larger military transport planes.
“We’re not selecting a risk-sharing partner or a supplier here,” said Embraer’s defense chief, Luiz Carlos Aguiar. “It’s simply a technical collaboration with a leading company that has been through similar experiences in military transportation.”
Brazil’s Embraer has quietly gone from a typical South American state subsidized small aviation industry to a highly successful builder of some of the most popular short haul airliners in the world. Their military aircraft side, while decent, hasn’t had as much success (and of course, there’s the whole brouhaha over the Super Tucano in the LAARA competition, which is still ongoing, if likely to die under the looming US budget cuts).
The leap from civil airliners to military transport is a fairly large one. And trying to design and market a replacement for the legendary C-130 is an awfully ambitious program. Having said that, I’ve not heard of any significant problems with the KC-390 program, and the market for an airlifter in that size is, in fact, quite large.Further, through collaboration with any number of possible customers, and sharing of production of components, Embraer is getting “buy in” for the program. If you’re a small country with a struggling aviation industry, your options are either to buy an off the shelf C-130, or buy a KC-390 and get production contracts for some of the subassemblies. That’s pretty attractive to a lot of countries.
Boeing’s goal here is, of course, to try to influence Brazil in its next fighter aircraft purchase. By fostering closer ties with Embraer, they hope to get the inside track to selling the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet to Brazil. Similarly, France is mulling the possibility of buying about 10 KC-390s, not because they need them, but in an effort to woo Brazil to buying the Dassault Rafale fighter.