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L3Harris, Embraer Collaborate on KC-390 Tanker

Smaller, Lighter, Tanker May See Success as Flexible, Improvised-Runway Ready Refueler

L3Harris and Embraer have inked a deal to develop an "Agile Tanker" in their efforts to address USAF operational requirements in "contested logistics environments."

The deal will expand the capabilities of the Embraer KC-390 Millennium tactical tanker aircraft, using it as a canvas to create a more advanced, resilient variant of the refueler. The changes will include an improved refueling boom, more robust systems to support agile or improvised basing, greater endurance, and resilient communications systems supporting JADC2 requirements. With the added upgrades, the two companies feel that the resulting KC-390 tanker will be a strong contender as they look to court the world's largest in-air refueling fleet.

The KC-390 Millennium strays a bit from the traditional "tanker recipe", with a high-wing, twin-engine layout, and short field performance with an eye for improvised runway use. Where other projects, like the venerable but ponderous KC-135 or the KC-10, the KC-390 is a more compact, rugged aircraft designed for a different refueling niche. Whether or not the idea of a "contested airspace tanker" catches on with buyers remains unknown, but Embraer and L3Harris seem confident that the benefits of the concept will shine through. 

“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 CEO of 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.”

“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 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.”

FMI: www.L3Harris.com, www.embraer.com


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