KC-390 undergoes extreme cold weather trials in Alaska

The Brazilian Air Force (Força Aérea Brasileira, FAB) and Embraer have conducted a series of extreme cold weather tests with the KC-390 Millennium tanker-transport in Fairbanks, Alaska.

The service revealed on February 12 that it had sent one of its KC-390s to undergo the cold weather trials in Alaska, supported by crews from the 1st Troop Transport Group (1st GTT) ‘Zeus’. It added that the mission – dubbed ‘Cold Soak’ – was designed to “verify the integration of all subsystems and the robustness of the new FAB freighter in a hostile environment, with extremely low temperature conditions.”

Brazilian KC-390 [COPAC/Lt Col Emerson]
A team from the Brazilian Air Force and other Brazil-based industry bodies arrived in Fairbanks, Alaska, on February 8 to conduct extreme cold weather trials with the Embraer KC-390 Millennium tanker-transport. COPAC/Lt Col Emerson

While the aircraft was in Fairbanks, it was exposed to the harsh, extreme cold climate of Alaska’s Arctic frontier for a long period of time. In a press release, the FAB noted that temperatures peaked at -37.8°C, with a thermal sensation of -47.8°C. “After the requested exposure time, operational checks of the aircraft were conducted to verify the correct functionality of several systems, such as: avionics, electric, hydraulic, flight controls, fuel, engines, auxiliary power unit (APU) and radar,” it said.

The FAB adds that “due to exposure to the extreme cold, the checks took place in a measured and thorough manner, in order to guarantee the safety of the testing team and the quality of the results obtained. The long journey of tests allowed the collection of different data that will be used to prove the aircraft’s robustness, as well as for the improvement and maturation of the evaluated systems.”

Lt Col Aviator Carlos Vagner Ottone Veiga, a member of the 1st GTT, highlighted the importance of this test series. “The test results will be important to continue with the certification of the aircraft in this condition, a big step so that the missions of the Brazilian Antarctic Program (PROANTAR) with the KC-390 can take place in the near future,” he said.

Brazilian KC-390 [COPAC/Lt Col Emerson]
Embraer KC-390 Millennium - serial 2855 (c/n 39000006) - undergoes extreme cold weather testing in Fairbanks, Alaska, in early February 2021. COPAC/Lt Col Emerson

The test campaign in Alaska was managed by Brazil’s Coordinating Committee of the Combat Aircraft Program (COPAC). However, representatives from the Institute for Promotion and Industrial Coordination (IFI), test engineers from the Flight Research and Testing Institute (IPEV) and personnel from Embraer were also present during the trials.

Lt Col Engineer Emerson Gonçalves de Souza, a member of the COPAC team, added: “The performance of the test represents an important milestone in the process of development and military certification of the KC-390 aircraft, which aims to ensure that this important air force vector will be able to operate efficiently in low temperature conditions, meeting the requirements established by the air force.”

Brazilian KC-390 [COPAC/Lt Col Emerson]
Members of the Brazilian test team inspect the KC-390's Selex ES Gabbiano T20 radar during the extreme cold weather tests. COPAC/Lt Col Emerson

The FAB currently operates a fleet of four KC-390 tactical transports, each of which has an air-to-air refuelling capability. As per current plans, the air arm will eventually operate a fleet of 28 aircraft with deliveries underway. The fourth KC-390 was handed over to the FAB last December and has since joined the three in-service examples that are operated by the 1st GTT from Anápolis Air Base in the Brazilian state of Goiás.

Hungary and Portugal will be the next customers to receive the KC-390, with the former acquiring two examples and the latter procuring five aircraft. Deliveries to both nations are scheduled to begin in 2023.