SAO PAULO, May 10 (UPI) -- Brazilian aircraft maker Embraer's KC-390 tactical transport plane is developing into a multinational manufacturing and assembly program and posing a serious challenge to Lockheed Martin's C-130 and later prototypes.
Embraer says it is keen to increase its global market share and satisfy maximum demand for a heavy-duty tactical transport plane, which it estimates at around 700 aircraft worldwide.
The KC-390 is set to emerge as the heaviest aircraft Embraer has built. So far the aircraft maker has concentrated on executive jets but is expanding its market for military aviation.
Embraer estimated its likely market at around 700 based on numbers of C-130 Hercules that need replacing.
Embraer says it hopes to develop a jet-powered rival to Lockheed Martin's C-130J, the larger Airbus transport A400M, Russia's AN-12 Antonov, its Chinese copy the Yun-8/9 and the Indian-Russian Irk ut/HAL MRTA project.
Prices and features on the military transport aircraft range vary greatly, but Embraer hopes to be more competitive than most of its rivals.
Embraer is also eyeing the market for smaller tactical transport aircraft like the EADS-CASA C-295M, and Alenia's C-27J.
Military drawdown in the United States and defense cutbacks in Europe in response to the economic downturn have led manufacturers to scramble for alternative markets.
The tactical transport aircraft's prospects look good, for now, because the plane can be used extensively in peacetime operations, including relief and civilian transport to maintain their revenue stream.
Embraer says it is developing a jet-powered medium transport with a cargo capacity of around 23 tons and with the capacity to refuel in flight and also provide refueling services to other aircraft while airborne. Since Embraer launched the project the manufacturer has been adding features and signing on international partners to equip the aircraft with as many features as will make it marketable on a global scale.
Embraer said the KC-390 would set a new standard in medium-lift military transport capacity and will have the lowest total life cycle cost of competing military transport planes.
The KC-390 presents extraordinary field performance and is capable of operating from short and semi-prepared airstrips, Embraer said.
A full fly-by-wire flight control system with optimized functions assures best mission performance and safe flying with reduced crew workload.
The Brazilian air force is the plane's first customer, and Peru has indicated it may order a number of the aircraft. Other potential buyers include Colombia and the Czech Republic.
However, Embraer has set sights on selling the aircraft in the United States.