SAO PAULO, Jan. 25 (UPI) -- Brazil is speeding its research and development programs to perfect a tactical transport aircraft to rival the C-130 Hercules amid predictions the global market needs no less than 700 substitutes.
That lucrative outlook has prompted Brazilian aviation research and development teams and manufacturer Embraer to work toward an early completion on a prototype that will be competitive in price, fuel-efficient and equipped with multi-role attributes of the old U.S. workhorse Hercules and its modern successor, Lockheed Martin C-130J.
Embraer market research indicated the aircraft manufacturer expects global demand for C-130 replacements to be around 700 planes. Industry analysts said that estimate didn't include new markets opening in the Americas, Asia, Africa, Australia and possibly Europe as well despite is economic downturn.
The C-130J isn't the only potential rival for Embraer's KC-390. As the demand outlook becomes clearer and more enticing, at least four contenders want the same market share that the Brazilian aircraft maker seeks.
The air transport market usually features aircraft in the 20-ton category and already includes rivals A400M from Airbus Industrie, the Antonov AN-12 from Russia and its Chinese copy Yun-8/9.
The larger Irkut/HAL MRTA offering resulting from a joint Indian-Russian project is also in the race but is moving slowly toward realization.
Embraer also has to contend with lighter and smaller transport aircraft, including the EADS-CASA C-295M and Alenia's C-27J, which can draw away customers with flexible needs in terms of size and capacity.
Embraer experts indicated in published results they were looking to craft a jet-powered medium transport plane that could have a cargo capacity of around 23 tons.
Embraer research has also focused on giving the KC-390 model several features in refueling capacity, from refueling in the air to offering related services to other airborne aircraft.
Brazil launched a defense manufacturing program under former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and has invested heavily in developing assembly and manufacturing capacity in aviation as well as ground and naval forces equipment.
Brazil's multibillion-dollar investment in the defense sector has facilitated subcontracting on a large scale involving foreign component manufacturers and suppliers, transforming the KC-390 from a mainly Brazilian effort into a multinational project.
That international collaboration has made the KC-390 possibly the most formidable future competitor to Lockheed Martin's C-130J.
Meanwhile, the $700 million Irkut/HAL MRTA project is moving forward slowly despite Russian manufacturer Irkut's original plan to exploit its 40 percent investment as a starting point for a lucrative partnership aimed at boosting its annual turnover and expanding international market.
Initial plans call for the manufacture of 145 aircraft for customers in Russia and India.