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Embraer Is Bullish On Its Prospects In The Philippines

November 1, 2018

Brazil’s aerospace giant scored a minor victory in the Asia-Pacific last year when six of its Super Tucano propeller-driven attack aircraft were ordered by the Philippines. The Super Tucano is a variant of the lightweight prop trainer but armed with .50 caliber machine guns on its wings and meant for close air support in counterinsurgency operations. The Department of National Defense (DND) announced the acquisition in December last year and the Super Tucanos are expected to augment the Philippine Air Force’s (PAF) aging fleet of OV-10 Broncos and SIAI-Marchetti trainers.

During the recent ADAS 2018 arms show in Manila, Embraer were participating again with a small booth tucked in between the larger pavilions occupied by Israel and Turkey. The company isn’t fazed by its competition, however, since it expects to sell more of its Super Tucanos to the PAF in the coming years.

But another source of optimism for Embraer is its KC-390 twin engine light transport that it hopes can easily win over the PAF, who are searching for additional medium-range transports for the branch’s Flight Plan 2028 modernization program. The KC-390 is a new model that’s just about to enter service with Brazil’s own air force and Embraer have promoted its versatility as either a cargo hauler or a refueling tanker for fixed wing aircraft. The KC-390 is best suited for moving supplies, troops (up to 80 passengers), and maybe a small truck or two over 2,000 kilometers. This should be enough to get the logistically challenged PAF’s attention.

To improve the KC-390’s chances outside Brazil, Embraer is counting on its multibillion dollar joint venture with Boeing it hopes will enhance the transport’s appeal when up against foreign competition. In Southeast Asia at least its greatest rivals are similar twin engine models from Indonesia and Japan. Meanwhile, in Europe the KC-390 faces a more crowded market where newer light transports made in France, Russia, and Ukraine are making the rounds at aerospace events.

In the Philippines, Embraer are fortunate to have a customer whose missions are within national airspace. The PAF’s six Super Tucanos, for example, have little use in the ongoing territorial dispute over the West Philippine Sea and are better equipped for helping the army and law enforcement fight terrorists in the less tranquil parts of Mindanao. With each Super Tucano costing less than $20 million, the PAF’s current budget ($2.6 billion) for acquisitions until 2022 can spare another half dozen to form a squadron. If this comes to pass together with a contract for a squadron of single engine multirole fighters then the entire branch undergoes a serious leap in firepower, with Embraer enjoying a huge role on the PAF’s future operations.

But Embraer’s presence at ADAS 2018, which is the largest arms show in the country, didn’t lead to anything definitive yet. It’s entirely possible the PAF choose different airframes to fulfill its search for medium-range transports. If Embraer does end up winning fresh business in the Philippines in the next two or three years though, contracts for six of its light attack aircraft and maybe two KC-390’s can total more than $100 million. It’s a good enough reason to stay in town.

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